A Different Kind of Clone: Deskwanted Shuts Down Copycat Site

By David Knight |

It’s a risk that many website-based startups face – someone in a foreign country deciding that you’re onto something good and copying your work to pass off, and gain from, as their own. That risk became a reality this week for Berlin-based co-working and shared office portal Deskwanted, which discovered – and managed to shut down – an apparent clone based in Bulgaria.

The site, CoworkingZones.com, had reportedly copied Deskwanted’s stylesheets and HTML code as well as some API calls. In addition, the German company said, it was using data from the Deskwanted database.

The alleged clone only came to light when a Twitter user who noticed the striking similarities between the two sites informed Deskwanted, which immediately blocked the Bulgarian site’s access.

In a statement, Deskwanted said: “Pretty much any website can be cloned in this way, although the exact reason for doing so is mysterious. The cloners might have been trying to collect data from any users who tried to login to the fake website, or they might have been trying to generate traffic by replicating Deskwanted’s solid SEO structure.”

But, the statement added, the clone site could not replicate Deskwanted’s searchable map while pages were incomplete and many links led back to Deskwanted itself. As it was essentially mirroring the content, shutting the clone down was simply a case of blocking the site and its IP from Deskwanted.

The CoworkingZones site is currently down, displaying only a message stating: “The server is busy. Please try again later.” Silicon Allee was unable to reach anyone from the site for a comment.

While Deskwanted considers the incident proof that it is “onto a winning business model in a fast-growing industry,” it also serves as a warning to others to stay vigilant when it comes to online cloning – even if it might not cause too much damage at first glance.

Deskwanted co-founder Joel Dullroy told Silicon Allee: “At first we were worried, but once we realized it was a rather harmless clone, we were kind of happy that someone liked our site enough to copy it. It means we’re onto a good thing.”

A screenshot of the Deskwanted site