Is Facebook becoming Tencent like?
Recently there is news that Facebook is developing a Reader application which is to compete with Flipboard and Pulse. This reminds me a few movements of Facebook in the past few months. First they built a copy of Snapchat named Poke which failed badly at last. Then they launched a new feature on Instagram named Video on Instagram which allows users to shoot and share short videos up to 15 seconds. This feature is to compete with Vine from Twitter. It seems Instagram wins over Vine on this. You can find this from Vine video sharing drops significantly. Now they are developing a Reader to compete with Flipboard and Pulse. What's their plan?
All above let me think about another IT giant in China--Tencent. Tencent is famous for its IM product QQ and WeChat. It has over 500 million users in China. But it's hated by many people there especially startups because they have a reputation of copying other companies products.
ourgame is an online game platform founded in 1998, It focus on providing entertainment games to global users. But unfortunately later Tencent launched QQ Game which was considered as a copy of ourgame. After that, Tencent attracted many users to its own game platform since it has a huge user base on QQ. This in turn made ourgame less popular and finally ourgame got bankrupted.
In last two years, there was a famous fight between Qihoo 360 and QQ called "3Q fight". The background of this fight is that Qihoo 360 is a company focusing on computer security and they have software enable users to protect their computer from infecting trojans, virus etc, also the software will help users keep their compueter clean and safe. It's famous because it's fully functional and easy to use especially for those people who have little knowledge about computer. But later Tencent also launched a similar software which had almost the same functions as 360, so Qihoo 360 and Tencent had a lawsuit on this.
There are many products or service are considered to be copied from other companies like QQ Music, Soso etc. This is said not good for the fair competition in China as Tencent QQ has a huge user base. If QQ copies one product from other company, then the other company may disappear because they cannot compete with Tencent on the user base. This caused many arguments in China and the argument is still continuing.
Now there is a famous story in China's Internet world, when startup companies go for raising fund, investors may ask one question : "How do you prevent Tencent from copying your product?". Yes, this may be a bit funny, but this is what's happening in China's startup circle, there is little chance for small companies.
Now come back to Facebook, it seems it also follows the same strategy taken by Tencent, if they think some product or service is profitable, then they will get involved in it and create one themselves such as Poke, Vine on Instagram and the future Reader.
Should we concern about this trend? Will this impact other companies? Will Facebook dominate the market with its huge user base? Will this be harmful to the competition? The answer is still unknown yet. But from Vine's experience, this indeed has some impact on other companies. Still, this seems a bit different from what happens in China. There is good startup environment in US, there is no copy gene in Silicon Valley. So we are confident that Facebook will not be Tencent like.