The best thing with which to mock a company that shouldn't exist is a company that doesn't actually exist. And San Francisco's Internet hipsters won't just snicker about your startup behind your back; they'll do it where your vanity Google Blog Alerts will find it. Plurk is only the latest target — a startup that lets users post short updates to the Web, as Twitter does, but adds a timeline. Plurk's faux nemesis: Pheltup, "the first social network that not only tells you WHO is doing WHAT; but also WHY." When some Twitter "thought leaders" — Pheltup's target market — fell for the rumor that it had acquired the freshly hatched Plurk, it just showed how easily pranked the neophile cool kids of the Web are. What upped the ante is that Plurk's real executives are now actually responding to the (fake) buzz about their "crude and unwholesome" would-be owners.
The Pheltup and Plurk story seemed too good to check, but even if one did, there was plenty of evidence — almost a textbook, check-the-box approach to launching the startup. A 111 Minna launch party listed on Upcoming; a support topic opened on customer-service disccusion board Get Satisfaction; and some sadly plausible Twitter hype.
And the last is where Pheltup and Plurk really converge. Twitter hype is the latest currency of copycat companies who mistake Web attention for making a product anyone wants. Plurk "overlord" Akan seems to even get that: "All indications point to Pheltup being a rather elaborate hoax amongst A-list Twitterers," as he wrote in a comment on a blog post. As opposed to, say, Plurk. Even when it's so clear that it's all a joke, the real startup owners are writing the punchlines for the rest of us.