China: Tencent – Copycat?
June 20, 2011
Most US business models either fall under the category of B2B (Business to Business) or B2C (Business to Consumer). In China however, another business category has emerged since the advent of the internet and mobile applications called the C2C business model. Better known as the “Copy to China” business model, its main characteristics include replicating successful internet, software or mobile applications from the U.S and creating a Chinese version for the domestic market in China.
Some notable American companies with very similar business models in China include:
One of China’s largest internet companies is Tencent. Established in 1998, its user base boasts over 400 million active users. According to China Daily as of June 2011, Tencent is China’s largest Internet company, and world’s third-largest behind Google and Amazon by market capitalization.
While Tencent is undoubtedly a successful company, its success also comes at the expense of being known as one of the industry’s biggest Copycats. Tencent has been accused of curbing innovation and creativity to being cursed with the four-letter word in this article by China Computerworld. Critics quoted in the piece complain about Tencent’s lack of creativity; “never a first mover, it enters established sectors and muscles out the competition – shamelessly imitating its rivals.”
Some of Tencent’s business categories include:
Since Tencent’s recent foray into the smartphone industry, its Copycat reputation has followed. Tencent’s QQ browser seems to have amazingly similar navigation and user interface features as Dolphin, an Android browser and also the Opera browser. Below are screenshots comparing Tencent’s QQ browser against Dolphin and Opera browsers.
QQ browser vs Dolphin Browser HD - QQ browser uses same user interactive mode as Dolphin by sliding right or left to show the toolbars.
QQ browser vs Opera browser – After clicking the menu button, QQ browser (left) shows the thumbnail of the windows which the user has opened exactly like the Opera browser (right)
QQ browser vs Dolphin Browser HD – The Chinese characters on QQ browser (left) means shake your phone to change the theme of the browser. Exactly like the Dolphin browser (right)
QQ browser vs Dolphin Browser HD - The Chinese characters on the QQ browser (left) “手势” means “gesture” in English.
According to a Dolphin representative, Gesture was originally developed as a special feature in the Dolphin Browser (right) where users can draw a pattern to help them finish a specific action while browsing, i.e. load a specific URL, close all tabs, turn on private browsing mode, etc.
QQ browser vs Dolphin Browser HD - The Chinese characters in QQ browser (left) “复制” means “Copy”, “搜索” means “Search” , “分享” means “Share.” The Dolphin browser (right) has exactly the same user interface options.
Unless there are trademarks or patents to show, the questions remain — how do we know which company developed the application or navigation first and who copied who? The internet has lowered barriers to entry especially for user interface design and mobile apps development.
However, with Tencent’s reputation as a Copycat, it’s not surprising that they are constantly under fire and scrutiny for any kind of “innovation” within the industry they enter.
Tencent’s 2011 Q1 total revenues were RMB6,338.4 million (USD966.8 million), an increase of 14.7% over the fourth quarter of 2010 and an increase of 50% over the first quarter of 2010.
Pretty impressive for a Copycat!
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