Creating website clones is certainly a popular and upcoming trend in the IT industry. Website clone does not necessarily mean a copy-paste script of the reference site or a “me too” site. It is build with numerous enhancements and additional features and functionalities to the reference site. People have stepped forward and opted to create website clones of popular and in-demand websites in order to develop their own similar platform according to their custom requirements. These newly developed website clones have also received significant response from the diverse user base and generated considerable traffic on regular basis.
The most popular among website clones are clones which are rapidly being regenerated or brand new website concepts which are being shaped on the web by several business entrepreneurs. Amazon, eBay, ClubPlanet, Kickstarter, Elance, Groupon, AirBNB etc. are popular websites whose clones are being regenerated by web entrepreneurs. To name a few of the most successful website clones Airizu, Wimdu, Lashou, Ushi.cn, Hudong and VKontakte are hugely successful website clones which have made a remarkable web presence and generated considerable user response on the web. Even though being a replica of the reference top rated site, these clones have been successful due to the reason being they provide customized features based on the local culture of the targeted audience and provide significant utility out of the services they offer in the newly developed website clones to a broad range of user base.
Let us take a brief look at some of the more popular website clones which have been successful in making their mark on the internet. Airizu is a popular Chinese website which provides the service to find accommodations to people seeking vacation rentals and other short-term accommodations like rooms to rent for a short period of time. If there’s one indication that a Western company is doing well, it is getting cloned in China. Airizu is a clone of the US website AirBNB which is being cloned in China for wanderlust travelers to browse housing listings ranging from couches, air mattresses, or private rooms similar to AirBNB. According to Airizu’s co-founder Adrian Li, “Since we launched the service in June, we have had over 100,000 room nights booked,” said Adrian, “Through our service, people can book over different 40,000 apartments in 70 cities in China.” Airizu provides efficient service which makes it effortless to showcase the landlord’s space to an audience of millions, and to find the right space at any price point, anywhere.
Another popular AirBNB clone is Wimdu which is a European website and a competitor of AirBNB. Wimdu is the central platform for all types of private accommodation and unites travelers with hosts around the world. Wimdu has been launched in 11 languages and in addition to Europe is active in Asia as well as North and South America. Wimdu has only been around for about a year, but it’s already a huge business. Its success is proved by the recent news which says that it has managed to irk the latter raising a whopping $90 million round within a short span of time. After one year, Wimdu’s website boasts 50,000 properties listed, in over 100 countries, making it by far the largest social accommodation search website coming from Europe. According to Wimdu CEO Arne Bleckwenn, there’s a big chance the European startup will eventually be even bigger than AirBNB. The site even expects revenue to exceed 100 million Euros ($132 million) for the whole of 2012.
At present, the latest cloning craze is localized versions of Groupon website. To have a better idea about it consider the fact that Lashou.com, a competitor to Groupon in China, just raised the large sum of $110 million from venture investors. Similar localized versions of Groupon can also be created for local regions based in different countries as Groupon Clone has high potential to get instant success and very quick user base due to the attractive group buying offers and targeted audience.
Another example of a popular website clone is of Ushi.cn which is China’s most popular business social networking brand. Since a beta launch in February 2010, Ushi.cn, which is in both Chinese and English, has grown to more than 200,000 registered members. In spite of being a LinkedIn clone, it has been able to make a mark as a business networking site gaining even more popularity than LinkedIn in China.
It is interesting to know the trick why Ushi.cn took off in China. Founder Dominic Penaloza, a Chinese Canadian serial entrepreneur selected 100 influential business and tech leaders as charter members and informal advisers, then relied on these contacts to invite their connections to join. That is clever, right? The site, based in Shanghai, has attracted a solid mix of investment bankers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, marketers, lawyers, accountants and recruiters as joiners. Last October, Penaloza raised $1.5 million for the site, which sports clone-like features from LinkedIn plus some local adaptations and innovations such as a virtual currency and a mobile check-in feature for business conference – a handy tool for finding out who else is there.
Hudong, the Chinese Wikipedia, is another example of a replica that has leveraged the China opportunity. Started in 2005 by western-educated returnee Haidong Pan, the Beijing-based Wikipedia clone site has accumulated more than 5 million entries from 3 million contributors and is in both Chinese and English. Unlike the nonprofit Wikipedia organization, Hudong is a private, money-making enterprise. Founder and CEO Pan expects Hudong to generate $20 million in revenues and $5 million in profits this year. On top of that, Hudong is on solid financial footing, having picked up funding of $30 million in 2008 by venture capitalists DCM, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Northern Light Venture Capital.
This Chinese site has features that go beyond Wikipedia. Social media is baked into the site. There’s a knowledge club for sharing info about science, groups for getting acquainted with like-minded friends and centers for exchanging copyrighted images. Similarly, VKontakte is a successful Russian social networking website which offers features similar to ‘Facebook’. VKontakte offers a striking similarity in design and functionality to its American rival Facebook, and as such has been described as a “Facebook clone.” As of January 2012, VKontakte has over 140 million accounts and is ranked 43 in Alexa’s global Top 500 sites and is the 4th most visited website in Russia and the 3rd in Ukraine.
This way, by providing custom features in addition to those already present in the popular reference site, the successful website clones offer much more utility to its users and this enables it to get a large user base within a short period of time. These Chinese, European and Russian copycat brands seem likely to have a promising future. Their launches are really only the springboard as China’s mobile and Internet markets – the world’s largest – continue to grow. With the founders’ knowhow and their knack for tailoring features to the local culture, each may be able to keep the big multinational powerhouses from penetrating the wall even in the future.