Wang Xing was 26 years old and already the founder of a failed Chinese takeoff of oncehot Friendster when he cloned Facebook. It was December 2005 in Beijing, and Wang and two friends had made an excellent copy. Xiaonei would quickly become the most trafficked Chinese version of Facebook, but less than a year in, forced to borrow money from his parents to keep it going, Wang sold his first success for several million dollars.
He and other friends next copied Twitter. Fanfou would become China’s highest-profile Twitter clone, but it was taken off line by the government after the Xinjiang riots of July 2009 and would not return for more than a year. Meanwhile Xiaonei flourished under its new owners and its new name, Renren; it will soon be valued at more than $4 billion in a highly anticipated U.S. IPO.