Attack of the Facebook clones: Russia's Vkontakte

International ripoffs of successful web companies can be found everywhere, from Frazr, the German Twitter clone, to Digg Malaysia, the Malaysian clone of the news-ranking site Digg.

Not to be outdone, the Russian social network Vkontakte (or “virtual contact”) has copied Facebook’s look and feel almost exactly — not to mention its growth rate. See Alexa graph and screenshot gallery, below.

Copying Facebook has already turned out to be lucrative in other countries.

In Germany, Facebook clone StudiVZ was bought by a German publishing company for around $100 million; in China, Facebook clone Xiaonei was reportedly bought by a larger Chinese internet company for an undisclosed amount.

With all of the debate about who really invented Facebook, these copycats remind us that big ideas like social networking are about executing on a well-focused plan. For Facebook, it was college campuses in the US. For its competitors, it’s college campuses in other countries, in other languages.

The copycats are also reminders for Facebook: It should start building out localized versions for other countries, something it has failed to move quickly on. Apparently, Facebook already has an “Internationalization Team” at work, and is still hiring for it.

Vkontakte’s increasing Alexa rank:

new-alexa-vk.jpg

Vkontakte’s brilliant design:

eric-vk.jpg

And, let’s not forget, StudiVZ’s red version:

studivz.jpg

Finally, there’s Xianei’s welcome page – like Facebook’s, but featuring an ad for upcoming Beijing Olympics (proud advertising partner: Coca Cola).

xiaonei.jpg

Thanks, Igor!