Hacker Shows It Doesn’t Take $8 Million to Clone Qwiki – Just 321 Lines of HTML Will do the Trick

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Qwiki is an app that creates pretty slideshows based on Wikipedia entries. The service won the top award at the last Techcrunch Disrupt conference and just received $8 million in new funding from a group led by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

Personally, I never understood why putting together a text-to-speech engine with a Ken Burns effect was disruptive. The VCs on the Disrupt jury thought different, though, and chose this pretty but ultimately utterly useless service over really disruptive ones like CloudFlare. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so. Now, just to show how Qwiki didn't merit the large new round of funding and how it doesn't deserve the constant hype on tech blogs like Techcrunch, an intrepid hacker who goes by the name of "Banksy the Lucky Stiff" put together Fqwiki, a workable Qwiki clone in just 321 Lines of HTML.

In the source code, the developer clearly references that the reason for this project was to show how easy it is to implement the basic functionality of Qwiki: "This code is not pretty, but it doesn't need to be. It's only been 6 hours, but based on funding patterns I should be able to raise a few million off of this ;)." The first demo of Fqwiki you see after opening the site is its rendition of the Wikipedia entry for "snake oil."

Fqwiki works best in Safari and Chrome, isn't quite as visually pleasing as Qwiki and is still quite buggy. As a smart critique of Qwiki and the hype around it, it definitely fulfills its purpose already, though.

Indeed, more so than a product, Fqwiki is a comment on the current state of VC funding and tech blogging. Qwiki is a very pretty product, but it's hard to see why it deserves the funding and attention it has been receiving. As of now, it only reads out Wikipedia entries and pulls matching pictures from articles that were linked to from the original Wikipedia entry. It's hard to imagine a situation where you would prefer seeing a Wikipedia slideshow (which, like all good slideshows, takes way too long) over just reading the article.

Frederic Lardinois founded SiliconFilter in 2011. Before starting this site, he wrote about 1,500 articles for ReadWriteWeb. His areas of interest are consumer web and mobile apps, as well as Internet-connected devices like cars, smart sensors and toasters. You can reach him at [email protected]

30 COMMENTS

  1. very impressive work. Should the developer be looking for a job I believe he won’t have to wait long for a proposal.

    • Agreed. Give me a 100k$, and in a year, i’ll shit you more prototype of marketable stuff that a VC can dream of.

  2. Thats the major problem wioth all of these web startups now. There is no technology. You can write twitter in 50 lines of code (Ive done it), just put a pretty website on top of it. Facebook?, Groupon?, Foursquare?…Teenagers can write these sites.

    Ill check back in with web startups when they do something with technology that doesnt involve crayons and diapers.

    • Good point. Yet, technology might be the key to a ‘great’ startup but not necessarily profitability. I mean, look at Twitter. It is such a simple concept, yet surprisingly they received millions in funding?

      Investors will invest in projects with enormous numbers regardless of what it is. Twitter has BIG numbers for tweets and users, yet they aren’t profitable and most likely won’t ever make a good return?

    • Spoken like someone who has no idea what kinds of technology has had to be created so that these sites could scale to the amount of usage they have.

  3. It certainly is a nice try and is impressive for the small amount of code but let’s not confuse sizzle with steak. Just try the same query on both this and the real Qwiki and you’ll quickly see that it is the content, not the pretty ken burns affect, that is the issue. For example, I tried “Google” and what this spit out was complete gibberish.

  4. Setting aside the details of the service for a minute:

    Yeah, but Qwiki took the idea and translated into code first. Lots of novel ideas are head-smackingly simple in retrospect. Some people just choose to ship.

    • Every programmer has hundreds of “amazing ideas” in his head all the time. There is not enough time in the world to implement all of them. Every time someone stumbles into popular success when their app becomes chic and fashionable, we go back and rewrite history, saying “See, they must have had a novel insight!”

  5. i don’t see the need for that either but i assure you 99% of the people will love it. reading? wtf they can’t even read…

  6. Yeah – and I could probably write facebook in a few weeks or re-invent the can opener in a couple of hours – but that is not the point is it !!!!

  7. Qwiki was able create a hype because of Louis Monier, founder of Altavista. He was hired early to lead the “tech” but I heard he f*ed up real bad and he got fired… What a loser.

  8. Qwiki was able create a hype because they used the name, Louis Monier, founder of Altavista. He was hired early to lead the “tech” but I heard he f*ed up real bad and he got fired… What a loser.

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