Facebook is starting to pursue social networks that have copied their design or features by suing German site StudiVZ. The Financial Times has reported that Facebook filed a suit in California against the German company for what it claims is an infringement of Facebook’s “look, feel, features and services”.
StudiVZ claims to have 10 million active members, and is the largest social network in the German-speaking world, covering Germany, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. The network is actually comprised of three different sites, each one a separate social network aimed at different segments of the market. StudiVZ.net is the classic site for college-aged students, SchuelerVZ.net is for high school students and MeinVZ.net is for older adults (these three networks were very hard to decipher in German when I attempted to sign up).
As the German blog Netzwertig points out what Facebook basically admits with this is that studiVZ is the main hurdle for their expansion into the German market. Networking effects prevent studiVZ users from switching to the American competition and rumoured talks about a possible take over apparently didn't lead to any result.
Netzwertig goes on to explain that after Facebook's growth in the US, Great Britain and Scandinavia, regions where the service virally spread in an instant, slowed down it needs to exploit new markets. Consequently Facebook can't ignore a tightly populated, affluent country like Germany.
Nevertheless: The launch in Germany was pretty half-assed, a minimum was spend on the localisation (which accordingly lacked quality) and marketing. The idea that new members turned up automatically didn't work out. So now it's time for plan B – sue the competition out of existence.
Netzwertig speculates that the chances of studiVZ still existing as an independent network in one year are marginal now that Facebook identified it as its nemesis. Eventually the outcome of this whole venture also very much depends on studiVZ's current owners, the Holtzbrinck-Verlag, which acquired the service for 100 million Euros in 2007 but couldn't capitalise on it yet.
Personally I think that there's a reason that Mashable included studiVZ in their top 10 international Facebook clones list, pointing out that
StudiVZ is nearly identical to Facebook in terms of features, functionality, and interface.
As Anthony Barba explains studiVZ internally was even referred to as "project Fakebook", a fact that was revealed later when error messages used the phrase “fakebook”.
The only reason I ever signed up for studiVZ was to stalk people I went to high school with (just as pretty much everyone else I know) – something I regretted immediately. Not only because I came across some characters of the past I'd rather forget, but also because of the absolute god awful functionality of this sorry, parochial excuse of a social network: Innovative developments towards a more comfortable service are virtually non-existent and I can't connect with my English speaking friends abroad.
In short: The technology is just as sophisticated as one of the founder's excuses:
One can't confuse the platforms with each other. "The colours are different: studiVZ is red, Facebook is blue"