Clones are good

Replit was a service that I was using as a tool where my colleagues were able to run some code snippets online to learn some concepts which I wanted to teach.

However, yesterday’s fiasco made me immediately delete my Replit account. If you don’t know what happened, in a summery, the CEO of Replit basically threatened an undergraduate for launching an open source project that was mimicking some functionality of Replit. Which is the ability to run code snippets online.

I know that I’m not a paying customer of Replit and I’m just a blip on their service that no one cares. However, what Replit is doing is nothing new, and innovative. I’m sure there must be dozens of companies, or open source projects that pre-dates Replit which gave the ability to run code snippets online on a sandboxed environment.

So why would Replit CEO gets angry at someone creating a clone of their service, if it is not using any IP of Replit?

According to the ex-replit intern who made the clone, it’s not that difficult to create a service that ran code snippets online, which I feel is true.

If cloning something is bad, then we would have been stuck in Yahoo days, and if companies go on threatening and suing someone for creating a similar service without violating any IP then we would not be having most of the tech that we use today.

For example, Intel was created by ex-employees of another semi conductor company. Steve Jobs stole ideas from Xerox, Facebook copied the idea of MySpace or Friendster, Google copied the idea of Yahoo and Yahoo copied the idea of search engines before it.

However, most of the time the clone was better than the parent. And that’s how humans and the nature evolves as well, in a way we all are clones, and each generation gets better because of minor mutations that makes a generation better (or worse) than their parents, and the people who end up with better mutations survive.

If you are a CEO and is afraid of a clone you should not be going to lawyers and making legal threats of trying to bring down the clone, what you should do is double down your effort to make your service better than the clone and existing competitors.

For example, when Google tried to copy Facebook by creating Google+, if you search though the internet you will find the stories on how Mark Zuckerberg doubled down his efforts to make sure Facebook stays on top of Google+ at all times.

Just like someone who build a chair doesn’t own anything to other people who has built a chair before him, people who make a clone of a service does not own anything to the service that they are cloning, as long as no IP gets violated.

I’m happy to see the blog post going viral and people backed up the intern and criticized Replit’s CEO, and I wish him nothing but success.