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Mark Zuckerberg is copying the tactics used by China's tech industry to try and beat China's tech industry

Published by Business Insider on Sun, 10 Jan 2021

<p><img src="https://static3.businessinsider.com/image/5ff5e37bd184b30018aad463-2044/ap_19290632595509.jpg" border="0" alt="facebook ceo mark zuckerberg georgetown" data-mce-source="AP Photo/Nick Wass" data-mce-caption="Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Georgetown University, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Washington."></p><p></p><bi-shortcode id="summary-shortcode" data-type="summary-shortcode" class="mceNonEditable" contenteditable="false">Summary List Placement</bi-shortcode><p>If you manage to sneak behind the 'Great Firewall' which encircles China's internet, you're confronted with an oddly familiar environment. The Chinese internet looks similarif not more developedthan the rest of the world's. But there are a few key differences.</p><p>You won't find YouTubeat least not officially, though virtual private networks (VPNs) enable people within China to access itbut you will find a raft of homegrown competitors that look awfully like the world's biggest video sharing website. You won't find Twitter, but you will find Weibo, which looks similar.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>A parallel internet was generated out of China's unique social and political demands, but it lifted key concepts and stole ideas from the early social media giants of Silicon Valley.&nbsp;</p><p>It's not just apps and services that have been subject to outright copying; since Western companies reshored their production lines to China in the 1980s and 1990s, China has become the place to buy knock-off items. It's<a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2018/03/29/meet-the-man-fighting-americas-trade-war-against-chinese-counterfeits/#267031181c0d"> estimated 80%</a> of all counterfeit goods worldwide come from China. Now, in the 2020s, the tide has turned. In the world of tech at least, we're copying China.&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>Times have changed</strong></h2><p>Today we're seeing the rise of the first generation of apps developed outside Silicon Valley to truly make it into the mainstream, spearheaded by TikTokwhich charts its genesis in two different apps, Musical.ly (a US company run by Chinese executives) and Douyin (which has firmly had its feet within the 'Great Firewall' since its founding). This shift has the old guard of Silicon Valley tech brosand hawkish politicians worried about the geopolitical implications of ceding control of the internet to Chinaconcerned.</p><p>Mark Zuckerberg is chief among them. <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2019/10/1/20892354/mark-zuckerberg-full-transcript-leaked-facebook-meetings">Recordings of internal meetings</a> made public in October 2019 indicate he's all too aware of the risks to his suite of companies by upstarts from Asia.&nbsp;</p><p>"One of the things that's especially notable about TikTok is, for a while, the internet landscape was kind of a bunch of internet companies that were primarily American companies," Zuckerberg told his employees. "And then there was this parallel universe of Chinese companies that pretty much only were offering their services in China. TikTok, which is built by this company Beijing ByteDance, is really the first consumer internet product built by one of the Chinese tech giants that is doing quite well around the world."</p><p>Zuckerberg called it "an interesting phenomenon." And to head it off, he's decided to take a page out of China's books, unashamedly aping the most popular products produced by Facebook's competitors and passing them off as his own.</p><h2><strong>Facebook's mimicry is increasing</strong></h2><p>This isn't anything new, of course. In <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/29/in-antitrust-hearing-zuckerberg-admits-facebook-has-copied-its-competition/">antitrust hearings</a> held late in 2020, emails among Instagram's cofounders revealed they were under the impression that if they didn't sell up to Zuckerberg, his company would simply copy their idea anywaywhat they deemed "destroy mode." As part of the same hearings, Zuckerberg was forced to admit Facebook had "certainly adapted features that others have led in."</p><p>But Facebook's mimicry is becoming more frequentand alongside that, more blatant. Earlier this year, it released Reels, its Instagram bolt-on that looked an awful lot like TikTok. This was Facebook's second attempt in the last 12 months at dislodging TikTok, which has largely rewritten the norms of social media and shortform video online. A previous attempt, called Lasso, was <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2020/07/01/lasso-facebook-tiktok-shut-down/">shuttered in July 2020</a>, after barely making a mark on the world.</p><p>To head off the popularity of platforms like Cameo, which allow celebrities to sell access to their personal lives by providing short video snippets in exchange for fans' cash, Facebook <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-12-15/facebook-building-tool-to-let-fans-pay-celebrities-for-face-time">began developing Super</a>, which shares many of the same features.&nbsp;</p><p>News of Super's existence was confirmed by a Facebook spokesperson just before Christmas. And around the same time, Facebook's chief technology officer <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-tldr-ai-tool-read-news-articles-for-you-2020-12'r=US&amp;IR=T">unveiled TLDR</a>, an AI assistant tool designed to summarize articles into more condensed formats. It bears more than a passing resemblance to any number of apps, including Summly, a startup <a href="https://www.economist.com/schumpeter/2012/12/18/extra-extra-read-half-about-it">launched in the early 2010s</a> by a British teenager named Nick D'Aloisio.</p><h2><strong>In pursuit of the superapp</strong></h2><p>Feature creep, and outright copying of ideas, isn't solely Facebook's purview. As<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/twitter-fleets-social-media-innovation-dead-instagram-facebook-snapchat-2020-11"> previously reported</a>, the virus-like spread of impermanent content from Snapchat to Twitter, through Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, demonstrates that unique features are becoming rarer. Every app is looking to become the same. But few do it as blatantly as Facebook.</p><p>In part this is because of their might: they're gunning to become a superapp, a one-stop shop for users to remain within the Facebook ecosystem. But it's also because that position atop the social media pyramid allows them to be more flagrant in cherry-picking competitors and deciding to lift opponents' key selling points wholesale, if they decline to accept Facebook's money for a buyout.</p><p>Yet it's hypocritical of Facebookand of Zuckerbergto do so, particularly given the way they appear to have drummed up opposition to the rise of apps like TikTok earlier this year. Part of the reason the outgoing US president <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-campaign-spend-80000-facebook-anti-tiktok-ads-2020-7">pursued a vendetta against TikTok</a> through the courtsa vendetta he looks likely to lose, or run out of time on before he is replaced by President-elect Joe Bidenwas because of alarm raised by people like Zuckerberg. Politicians, Zuckerberg <a href="https://about.fb.com/news/2019/10/mark-zuckerberg-stands-for-voice-and-free-expression/">told an audience at Georgetown University</a> in October 2019, face a decision about "which nation's values are going to determine what speech is going to be allowed for decades to come."</p><p>Zuckerberg was talking ostensibly about issues of censorship and oversightareas that China fails on, and which should not be replicated elsewhere. Speaking about the rise of Chinese-based apps and services worldwide, he asked the audience: "Is that the internet we want'"</p><p>What he didn't realize was that in a way we already have a Chinese internetand it's because of him. The knock-off, carbon copy, cheaper counterfeit mentality that typified China's industry and spurred its early development of social media, has come to the Westand it looks an awful lot like Facebook.</p><p><strong>SEE ALSO:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/tiktok-launching-tv-netflix-amazon-disney-watch-out-samsung-deal-2020-12" >TikTok is coming to TV. YouTube and Netflix better watch their backs.</a></strong></p><p><strong>SEE ALSO:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/twitter-fleets-social-media-innovation-dead-instagram-facebook-snapchat-2020-11" >Social-media innovation is dead</a></strong></p><p><a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/zuckerberg-recognizes-china-tech-social-media-threat-now-copying-them-2021-1#comments">Join the conversation about this story &#187;</a></p> <p>NOW WATCH: <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/transgender-activist-former-white-house-intern-sarah-mcbride-isnt-discouraged-by-trump-2018-3">Sarah McBride made history becoming the first openly trans person elected to a state Senate seat. In 2018, she explained why the Trump administration wouldn't discourage her work.</a></p>
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