Twitpic founder clones Twitter with Heello

Twitpic founder Noah Everett has responded to the news that Twitter is rendering his creation obsolete, with a Photobucket-powered image hosting service of its own, by creating a new service called Heello.

As Twitter has 'copied' Twitpic's - and other Twitter-powered image hosting services' - business plan, so Everett has decided to copy Twitter's by means of payback.

Visiting Heello will give Twitter users a strong sense of deja vu: the cloud iconography is present and correct, and the site's tweets - sorry, 'Pings' - allow users to vent their collective spleen in up to 140 characters at a time.

The similarity goes still further: messages can be directed to particular users by prefixing their username with an @ symbol, in exactly the same way as Twitter. Heello even allows its users to link their accounts to Twitter - where the site is registered as a Twitter app - and cross-post messages between the two services.

While Everett has used his Twitpic experience to add image hosting directly into the site, that's something which Twitter now offers as well. As a result, it's hard to see what Heello offers that Twitter doesn't - other than the plain fact it isn't Twitter. With no mobile apps available yet, Heello is also a browser-based experience missing even the SMS integration offered by Twitter.

The service could also be open to attacks on a legal front. It's clear from its design and methodology that it's a Twitter clone - with 'tweet' replaced by 'ping,' 'retweet' replaced by 'echo,' and 'follow' replaced by 'listen' - which leaves Everett's project in a troublesome legal area.

Worse, famously litigious Apple could get involved: the company's own iTunes-backed microblogging service is called Ping, and while it's been remarkably unsuccessful since its launch with iTunes 10, it's close enough to the name used by Heello for its messages that Everett could find himself on the pointy end of a cease-and-desist from the company's lawyers.

With that said, there's a chance for Heello to shine. Twitter's developer ecosystem has been increasingly anxious about the company's 'extend, embrace, and extinguish' approach that has seen third-party Twitter apps killed off in favour of official software and services like Everett's own Twitpic made redundant by the addition of the same functionality directly into Twitter.

If Everett can avoid being sued, and adds robust APIs with the promise that he won't take ideas from the development ecosystem and roll them into the main site, Heello could prove a haven for developers tired of Twitter's attitude. For that to work, however, the service needs users, and for users to join, a development ecosystem will likely need to be in place.

If Everett can fix that Catch-22 situation, then Heello might just have legs after all.