Everyone fancies himself a designer lately. Take one photoshop class in middle school and suddenly you feel yourself qualified to offer your services to that other ubiquitous class of self-starter: the internet entrepreneur. You find a guy who can program a site for his brilliant new digital product but has no eye for interface aesthetic. You mock up a few clean lines and safe colors, ship him an icon and a few homepage accoutrements, and call it a job. Congratulations: you've now joined the ranks of the designers of the most successful sites out there.
See, it's not hard to draw up a brand that attracts users. The internet provides a space for almost infinite diversity in design, and yet all of us end up liking pretty much the same thing. Ever since Facebook premiered with its collegiate blue-on-white, social media has been a few shades of friendly blue. That's just how it works now. Look at its fellow social sites. The airier Twitter has got a nice sky blue going on, and even Google Plus, with its multicolor branding, predominantly takes on a similar shade. As for logos, there's only one rule: take the first letter of your company's name and display it in white against a background of your primary brand color. That's it. That's all you need to do.
Take, for example, Facebook and Tumblr. They have nearly identical icons. When I've got both open in a browser it takes me a second to figure out which tab to click. This might seem strange--why would designers echo each other so closely? Isn't the point of internet branding to construct a visually and functionally unique experience for visitors?