Microsoft China appears to have not only ripped a popular site's design but some of their site code too.
Plurk, a popular social networking site in Asia, claims that Microsoft China has ripped off their service by "blatant theft of code, design, and UI elements". In a company blog posting a Plurk employee states "we were first tipped off by high profile bloggers and Taiwanese users of our community that Microsoft had just launched a new Chinese microblogging service that looked eerily similar to Plurk. Needless to say we were absolutely shocked and outraged when we first saw with our own eyes the cosmetic similarities Microsoft's new offering had with Plurk."
It appears Plurk are correct, if you look at a screen shot below or even try and use Microsoft's "Hompy" service it's near identical to that of Plurk.
Plurk understand that many websites use a similar UI but they claim this isn't simply just a UI rip it's a code rip too. The blog post goes on to explain "If this was just a case of visual inspiration gone too far, we could probably have lived with it. We would have taken the time to reach out to Microsoft, get colour on the matter and try to amicably resolve it. That's not the case here. This is something far more sinister. On closer inspection, we found that MUCH of the codebase and data structures that Microsoft's MClub uses are identical snapshots of our code."
If the accusations are true then this is the second time in a month that Microsoft has been caught stealing code and using it illegally in their products. In early November blogger Rafael Rivera discovered that Microsoft illegally used GPLv2 code in a Windows 7 USB/DVD tool. Microsoft officials came clean and recently offered the tool for download alongside the tools source code.
Just how this one pans out remains to be seen, Microsoft officials were unavailable for comment at the time of writing.
Update: Microsoft have now taken the site offline. Microsoft officials confirmed the move in a statement, "because questions have been raised about the code base comprising the service, MSN China will be suspending access to the Juku beta feature temporarily while we investigate the matter fully".
Thanks to Dan for the news tip