Everyone copies each other. Everything built today is a mash-up and tweaked version of a something that existed before.
But the art of stealing is just one step in the art of creation. You still need to do the work and plus it up. That requires innovation.
Some companies like Facebook take a mainstream product like Skype or Google Chat and simply build their own version of it, or in the case of Instagram, acquire the entire product. This is lazy innovation, aping a style that’s already in vogue and using your massive user-base to force adoption.
Truly innovative companies like Apple admit that they’re emulating a hot trend or piece of technology and completely revolutionize it. There are failures of course in half-assing the effort;
Apple bombed in its effort Ping. That’s why it’s critical to build new products that match core strengths, in Apple’s case, excellence in hardware creation and sleek design, not social software.
People and companies learn through practice. The only way to practice and learn is to rebuild what already exists and then personalize it. Remixing can lead to original products.
In short, mock what works to get the skills required to create your own version. Keep recreating until you discover ways to make it better.
People want the latest and greatest. Give it to them.