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The Sincerest Form of Flattery

2 March 2008 · Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. They also say there is a fine line between imitation and inspiration. Gentle reader, I leave it for you to decide on which side of this line the following falls.

I helped build Travelbug, Trade Me’s online accommodation booking site. We launched Travelbug on 9 September 2007. Today, it came to my attention that a direct competitor has, essentially, lifted a major feature of the site.

The feature in question (coded primarily by me, coincidentally) is the booking calendar. You can see it in action by visiting any location page on the Travelbug site. It shows about a week’s worth of availability at a time, giving you the ability to scroll ahead and back, and allows you to start the booking process using a neat-o, visual interface.

Admiral’s View Lodge, Travelbug Style
Admiral’s View Lodge, Travelbug Style
Admiral’s View Lodge, Jasons Style
Admiral’s View Lodge, Jasons Style

Location pages also contain basic info like name and address, amenities, photos, and a Google Map of the location. Makes sense.

I guess there are only so many ways to display some of that basic info so I could forgive some similarities there. But, the booking calendar widget, while obvious once you see and use it, was pretty original in its conception and execution. Or, so I thought…

It’s possible that the folks at Jasons had the same idea, without ever having seen Travelbug. OK, it’s not actually possible. At least, I don’t think so, after looking at what they offer on their site.

Name, address, check. Description, list of amenities, check. Photos, Google Map, check. Scrolling booking calendar…hey, haven’t I seen that somewhere before?

Now, this isn’t my design. I only implemented it. From what I understand, the Trade Me guys are having a laugh about the whole thing, which is big of them. If it were me, I’d be fairly livid about this blatant plagiarism. I guess they’re more secure in their design-hood.

From a technical perspective, the thing I find interesting is that their page uses 2 or 3 different JavaScript animation libraries (YUI and for sure, and one that looks like a .NET kinda thing) and weighs in at over 1.3MB, roughly quadruple ours. Just saying.

Compare for yourself: