How do you create a social network to compete with Facebook? Easy, just make a crude clone of it and call it Youface. That’s what Ayub Abdulloh did in Uzbekistan.
According to Radio Free Europe, he didn’t seem too bothered by the similarities:
… Ayub Abdulloh in an Internet chat with RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service, admits that at “first glance” his new website may look like the world’s biggest social-networking site, but this is just to help it gather new members, and as his site gets more users, “this will be changed.”
Are you paying attention start-ups? All you have to do is reel them in with a familiar interface, then change everything when you get a big enough user base.
Abdulloh, 22, launched the site in May and says it’s “intended to ‘develop the patriotic spirit in our youth.'” No word on whether he was inspired by Jack Donaghy from the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, who often fingertagged old friends on the then-fictional social network (“Youface: Who are you facing?”).
Sadly, Youface might be one of the better options when it comes to social networks in Uzbekistan. Last fall, the Uzbek government set up Muloqot, a site aiming to rival the actual Facebook that requires citizens to provide a cellphone number to register.
Uzbekistan’s Internet and press are currently ranked as “Not Free” by independent watchdog organization Freedom House, which notes that president Islam Karimov — who has served since 1990 — and his regime regularly monitor mass communications, censor content critical of the regime and block many Western media organizations. (Oddly enough, according to Radio Free Europe, he allowed Sacha Baron Cohen’s recent comedy The Dictator to be shown in theaters).
Youface, which currently only has 300 members, is being promoted by Abdulloh as “clean” and “patriotic,” probably a necessity as the government keeps an eye on the country’s rapidly growing number of Internet users.