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January 29, 2007

Copycat Computing

As usual I've been accumulating a whole host of links in my feed reader without commenting on them. Here's a few to help clear out the pile.

Robert Scoble points out a post at the top of Techmeme. The post, by Yahoo!'s Jeremy Zawodny calls out Google for copying one of the splash pages on the Yahoo! site. It's quite amusing - look at the post itself to see how similar the pages are.

Google's Matt Cutts answers back, however:

Jeremy points out that Google had an IE7 promo page that looked remarkably similar to a Yahoo! IE7 promo page.

I can only speak for me personally on this. If Jeremy looked into it and says that it wasn’t a template from Microsoft, I believe him. That would mean that the Yahoo! page was used as a template for Google’s IE7 promo page. I can’t say why someone at Google would decide to do that, but to the Yahoo! UI designer whose page was copied: my apologies. In my personal opinion, it sucks when someone else copies a page layout without attribution.

It can take a lot of work to come up with creative HTML. I remember when Google did a bunch of UI research to decide on a distinctive look for AdWords. We decided to go with pastel boxes with a darker border on the right-hand side of the search results. Not too long afterwards, Yahoo! changed their side ads to pastel boxes with a darker border.

Click on the link to see the examples he offers.

It's quite amusing the fuss that's made in the computer industry about copying. Copycat software crops up all over the place as soon as one company has had a good idea. Apple and Microsoft have both spent years copying each other. The Open Source software movement relies on everyone building on each others work. In the same way as academics, you can only stand on the shoulders of giants if you can copy what they've already managed.


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