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The Rise and Fall of the World's Most Brazen Twitter Clones

Twitter shares hit a high of $50 on Thursday in its first day of trading. It's a sizable opening-day pop, given that the initial public offering price was initially marked at somewhere near half of that. The opening generated a lot of buzz among investors, in large part because, despite having yet to turn a profit, the micromessaging site has a staggering global reach. There are more than 230 million tweeters worldwide, and more than three-quarters of them are outside the United States. But perhaps the surest sign of Twitter's worldwide popularity is the number of knockoffs -- sometimes subtle, sometimes outrageous -- that it has inspired across the globe. Below, we bring you some of the best that, unfortunately, never made it to their own public debut. Here are the top five foreign Twitter clone fails.

Futubra. There was considerable hype over "Russia's Twitter," Futubra, which was launched in early 2012 by Mail.ru, the multibillion-dollar Russian company behind several successful Russian social networking sites. In a farewell note published on its website, the developers explained that their improvements weren't enough for "sustained growth of the project" -- a mere 11 months after its initial launch. The failure of a Twitter copycat might have been somewhat of a surprise given the comparative success of the Russian-language VKontakte, a Facebook rip-off that has a consistently top position among Russian networking sites. In an interview with Roem in December 2012, Mail.ru chairman and CEO Dmitriy Grishin conceded that the experiment, while "interesting," "went differently than planned."

Jiwai. This local Chinese variant of Twitter was "all the rage" a couple of years ago in China, according to the British IT news site the Register. Jiwai's interface did not have the same soft blue color theme of Twitter; instead, it adopted a punchier orange that led bloggers to swear it was an entirely different micromessaging animal. But Jiwai did keep the basic "tweeting" theme by keeping a small bird in the corner. While Jiwai was shut down in 2009 after its use during uprisings in Urumqi, the popularity of micromessaging endures in China. The well-known Twitteresque site Weibo has 56 million daily users; in April, China's eBay equivalent, Alibaba, bought an 18 percent stake in the company for $586 million. The popularity of the site might have major implications for China's heavy-handed censorship, leading some observers to call Weibo a "democratizing force."

Frazr. The Samwer brothers, known for their investment in the German Facebook copycat StudiVZ, were also behind Frazr, the French and German Twitter knockoff. This imitation didn't try to steal the aesthetic theme of Twitter, but it did steal the question at the top of the page from the original Twitter. "Everyone wants to know," the page says at the top in German or French, "Was machst Du?" or "Tu fai quoi?" ("What are you doing?")

Zuosa. Zuosa was one of the first sites in China's fleet of Twitter clones. It was launched in 2007, two years before the better-known Weibo. TechNode reported in May 2012 that the site would be closing by the next month, citing inadequate resources. The site, which used the same light blue home page theme as Twitter, made pretty halfhearted attempts to mask its obvious riff, calling followers "fans" and asking the equivalent of "What's up?" instead of Twitter's initial "What are you doing?"

Turulcsirip. As Turulcsirip’s light blue background and bird in the upper corner of the site indicate, this Hungarian copycat was going for a full-on physical imitation of Twitter. The site “unexpectedlyannounced its termination in February 2012. While there are obvious similarities with Twitter, a Hungarian Wikipedia page would like to remind you of the major differences: For instance, some of the content automatically refreshed itself, and it even had a default chat setting for instant messaging.

Apparently, a company doesn't even have to be profitable to be the envy of the world.

GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images

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The World's Billionaires Have Doubled Their Wealth Since 2009. Just In Case You Didn't Hate Them Already.

Recession be damned: There are more billionaires today than there were during the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 -- and they're twice as rich, says a new report released Wednesday.

The Billionaire Census, jointly compiled by Swiss financial company UBS and Singapore-based firm Wealth-X, is a comprehensive survey of the world's ultrarich -- essentially a thumbnail view of their interests, assets and social networks.  The report's findings are equal parts predictable (billionaires love yachts!) and intriguing (women are richer). As of 2013, there are 2,170 billionaires enjoying a collective fortune of $6.5 trillion. Over the past five years, they've increased in number by 60 percent, their combined wealth has doubled and they're more liquid than ever.  

Just over the past year, billionaire wealth has increased in every region of the world, as depicted by the map below, with the biggest gains in Asia. Europe was the only region to lose billionaires (29, to be exact), but it still boasts among the richest in the world. What's more: The global population is still growing -- expected to reach 3.900 by the year 2020.

 

Billionaires, it seems, are taking over our world (what little of it they don't already own, anyway).With that in mind, here are some of the report's highlights, framed as your most pressing questions about the richest people on Earth.

Who are these people?

The average billionaire is a 67-year-old man worth about $3 billion -- 18 percent of which is liquid (the recent financial crisis taught him a thing or two about carrying cash). He went to Harvard, or maybe to Penn State. His passions include art, aviation, real estate, traveling, and golf -- in that order. He's married, with two children and -- though he owns four $20 million homes -- he tends to spend most of his time in the city where his business is headquartered (probably New York).

Just 13 percent of billionaires are women, but they are an enviable minority -- richer than their male counterparts by about $200 million on average.

How did they get so rich?

An astounding 60 percent of billionaires are self-made. Twenty percent have inherited their wealth (most of whom live in Europe) while another 20 percent managed to leverage inheritances into even greater fortunes. The world's "mega-billionaires," each of whom are worth upwards of  $50 billion, are self-made, according to the report: Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, Amancio Ortega and Warren Buffet. Interestingly, only 17 percent of women billionaires are self-made. China boasts the highest number of self-made billionaires, at 89 percent.

Where do they live?

New York, Hong Kong, Moscow, London and Mumbai, in that order. The world's super-rich tend to congregate in wealth "hot spots." The majority live in the United States, which boasts more billionaires (515) than any other country. China has the second largest population -- and the youngest cohort -- with 157 billionaires.

Do they swim in a vault of golden coins, in the manner of Scrooge McDuck?

The report doesn't say, but it does note that billionaires spend a lot of money on luxury goods, chiefly: yachts, private jets, and art, but also antiques, clothes, jewelry and collectible cars. They also give to charity, to the tune of $32 million each over the last three years. American billionaires tend to be the most giving, with education topping favorite causes. So don't hate them completely.

The full report is here.

VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images