About 7 months ago, I was hired to the company I work at now. I was asked to bring some new ideas to the table. I instantly thought of a Q&A site similar to stackoverflow to target our marketed industry. I quickly pulled up the site and my new employer said "YES! I want that!" My memory told me that StackExchange was selling licenses for the product, and we could make a quick and easy integration.

Well, I had been on hiatus from SO at the time and was unaware of the new democratic Area51 and the new site creation policies. My boss decided he still wants something like it, and I offered to develop it from scratch. My only concern is legal implications from having a similar structure to StackOverflow and ending up with a fat lawsuit on my pink slip. We want to take advantage of everything from reputation to tags. I would propose an Area51 site, but we want this to be in house and be able to use it as a marketing tool, and sync our existing users with the program. I have no intent to stomp on any toes, but I'm actually very excited about the project.

I suppose my question is: What can I not do that StackExchange does? How do I make a Q&A format without cheesing off the community and making enemies on the network? What sort of legal guidelines should I follow to avoid infringing on the current setup of SE?

  • Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2267/…
    – thirtydot
    Apr 24, 2012 at 14:53
  • 5
    Just use one of the existing clones linked to by @thirtydot
    – Oded
    Apr 24, 2012 at 14:55
  • How big is your company? Maybe you could still buy a private SE.
    – Pops
    Apr 24, 2012 at 15:01
  • 1
    IIRC, the official stance on clones is that you can copy all you want, but it should be distinguishable from SO&co. Eg the multicollider dropdown shouldn't be there--if it is, it shouldn't use the SE logo. Et cetera. Cannot find a link though. Apr 24, 2012 at 15:02
  • Were you thinking of this answer by Jeff, @Manishearth?
    – Pops
    Apr 24, 2012 at 15:34
  • @Popular yep, that one. You think this can be CV-duped on that? Otherwise feel free to quote that in an answer to this.. :) Apr 24, 2012 at 15:39
  • Sorry, I didn't think to search with the term 'clone'. Thanks for the good comment-answers!
    – Kyle Macey
    Apr 24, 2012 at 17:17
  • Whoops, sorry @Manishearth, I missed your comment yesterday; seems like everything worked out fine though.
    – Pops
    Apr 25, 2012 at 17:36

1 Answer 1


This is nearly a dupe (the answer is, anyway), but nobody seems to want to close this.

Quoting the ex-Imperial Grand Poohbah

There cannot be end user confusion about which site is which.

Copy all you want, but if two people look at the sites and can't immediately say "this one is different than this one", then we have a problem.

You must carve out your own style and "look".

That should be it.

Or, steal the clones from here, many are open-source

Note that the SE engine used to be available commercially. Not anymore. However, if you spam team[at]stackexchange[dot]com with enough , I'm sure they'll be willing to make an exception for you ;-). (Actually i think I saw a comment somewhere on this)

  • I've looked at the clones, and most are either abandoned or don't match everything we're looking for. Plus, we have some extra features in mind ;-) Thanks, though. Knowing we won't be sued was the big one.
    – Kyle Macey
    Apr 25, 2012 at 5:31
  • @KyleMacey: Since they're open-source, you could add your own features. But there's the charm of starting from scratch as well as the familiarity with your own code. Apr 25, 2012 at 5:33
  • Yes, that and I'm probably going to be made to write it in ColdFusion :-( However, I've been looking for an opportunity to showcase Rails
    – Kyle Macey
    Apr 25, 2012 at 5:36
  • @KyleMacey: Being only an amateur programmer myself, I have no clue what you're talking about ;-) [OK, I do know what the two things are, just that I don't understand the frownyface :P] Apr 25, 2012 at 5:38
  • It's mostly a personal bias, but you'll probably find that most younger coders will agree that ColdFusion should have gone down with the ship. The ship being MySpace.
    – Kyle Macey
    Apr 25, 2012 at 5:41

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