YouTube Founders 'Swing for the Fences'? A Chinese Clone of Vine

The last time we checked in on AVOS Systems, the company launched by YouTube cofounders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, morale was bottoming out, the venture couldn't find its way out of the red, and a former employee called it a "gigantic waste of money." Now, the company has launched Wan-Pai, which even TechCrunch admits is a Chinese "clone" of Vine, Twitter's six-second video sharing sensation.

Rather than "swing for the fences," "empower employees to define new products," and "embrace a culture of experimentation," as AVOS promises on its website, the company seems to be doubling down on derivation.

The video sharing app, called Wan-Pai or Wanpai, instructs users to press down and hold to start shooting (like Vine), lets you record for six seconds (like Vine), has a camera interface that shows your progress (like Vine), and displays comments and likes in the same place as Vine.

According to a tipster who alerted Valleywag, "because [AVOS] released it through their chinese company, vine isn't even going to be able to take them to court to protect what they've built." We've reached out to Twitter and will update the post when we hear back.

But copycatting does seem to be a big part of the AVOS mission.

One of its products, d.me, started as a bit.ly-esque link shortener and iterated into a knockoff of New Digg. The website for another AVOS product, Dropdot, which looked kind of like Caterina Fake's Old Pinwheel, now just redirects you back to the AVOS site.

The YouTube founders may be one-hit wonders, but at least they've picked better targets to clone. Today, Hurley tweeted:

Update: In an interview with the New York Times, Hurley admitted that Vine was "the inspiration" for Wanpai.

He said that Avos’s development team in Beijing, which operates with some autonomy from the company’s headquarters in San Mateo, Calif., had developed Wanpai on their own initiative.

“They didn’t think Vine was serving the market,” he said. Vine “wasn’t translated and didn’t work well in China.” (Twitter is blocked by the Chinese government and Vine is tightly integrated into the social networking service.)

Mr. Hurley said Avos’s newest creation, MixBit, to be released in July or August, would be much more original.

A sliding scale of originality? How positively moon shot.

To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.