Wassup Orkut!

Orkut has launched a new feature today for its photo albums - you can now tag photographs.[report]

Yippee ?? Well maybe not.

After Orkut's launch in 2004 and an annoying period of 'No Donuts' and 'Server Errors', we grew to like the quirky social networking phenomenon (Well I was quite skeptical! read the review here). Orkut was somehow slow to grasp changes happening in the online world. It held on to a strict limit of 12 photograph uploads while other websites encouraged gigabytes of photo upload. After a prolonged period, it changed the photo setting. It announced an odd development sporadically, none of them exciting enough to change our experience. When it allowed sharing of youtube videos, we politely smiled, since it was quite obvious that video sharing was the next move after photos. And now, Orkut is sluggishly emulating its competitor and hoping we don't notice that.

Well that isn't Google style at all!

Orkut in India
We Indians, being the superior jugaadu beings on the planet, managed to express ourselves in the constrained orkut space for over four years. For example, when there was no space other than 'About Me' for self expression. We've used it for a spectrum of purposes - a brief introduction, for location / job status, for phone number updates, for blog links. Because there was no other way.

Today close to 17% of orkut users are Indians. And that is despite the fact that somehow orkut has received the worst treatment in comparison to other google services (Google Reader, Google Talk, iGoogle etc). There are some needs which are obvious(like the need right now for integration of blogs within orkut) But the system catches up long after an alternate route has been discovered. And we are quickly discovering a more fun, vibrant and dynamic platform - Facebook.

There are some fundamental needs from social networking sites. Lets see how Orkut and Facebook compare in these:

1. We want others to hear our opinion about ourselves

Orkut - An About me text box.
Facebook - Countless different Apps allowing interaction and sharing

Now which one sounds better ? I can't even categorize the options available on facebook. I can use Apps to talk about myself (Left Brained, Self Interview, Rate Me). I can use Apps to help others talk about me. I can use them to rapidly update my moods for others to see(like Emote-Icons).

An About Me text box is barely visible, bound to that user's profile page. Activity centres around something only if it gains visibility.

2. We want others to hear our opinion on Stuff

Yes Stuff is an extremely vague word. But I intend that exact usage. Stuff varies from interests like music, books to food to youtube videos.

Orkut: Text boxes on Movies, Likes Dislikes; A page to stuff Youtube videos
Facebook: Apps to allow interaction on the same

You may argue that Orkut has always had space to talk about our choices. But the Likes-Dislikes and Movie boxes have never been spaces for activity. They just acted as spillover for the About Me section. As a contrast in Facebook for instance, fans of RDB can play the 'Which Rang De Basanti character are you' quiz. I guess you can understand the trend now. Static text is stale and unwanted.

3. We want others to know about our lives

Orkut: Initially Photo Albums, now a few Apps have entered this space

Some common Apps between Orkut and Facebook for these are iRead, MusicAlbums, TravelMap etc. These act as excellent triggers for conversation. Which is why its important to have them visible for comments or discussion. On orkut, our activity was largely restricted to updating About Me's. A huge possiblity lies in mimicking services like Twitter within Orkut. I'll discuss this later.

4. Attention from the opposite sex is appreciated (selective for females, any kind for males)

No explanation needed for this!

Orkut - Initially it had no great options. We could tick an extra box called 'Dating Women' for purpose, but that looked plain silly. After around 2 years, it launched a HotList, a CrushesList and an out of place IgnoreList. But for some reason, these remained hidden in the left panel, not a part of conversations. Guess what happened!! Simple rule - If it isn't visible and active, it'll die.
Facebook - It has an explosive set of quizzes and games for you to flirt online! Its really fun!

5. We want our opinion on others to be heard

Orkut: Testimonials

On Facebook, using the same Apps which others use to talk about themselves, we provide our opinions. And this works quite well too.

6. We want to interact with others in 'Fun' ways

Well it was only scrapbook for quite a long time. But Orkut has evolved rapidly in the last 2 months. This is the zone in which most of the Apps have arrived on orkut - popular ones currently being CricExchange, Slapster, Typeracer (Well that was pretty obvious - we Indians are good at discussing cricket, at having heated arguments and at typing really fast in IT jobs!).

This is the only section where Orkut has quickly matched up with Facebook.

7. We want to appear better that others on the network

Orkut: At first it was just about the number of scraps, fans and friends. But that got boring. But what's the point of competition if I can't compete openly!Then Orkut started giving statistics about profile visits about two years back. The numbers looked cool initially. Ooh! 32....45...120! Then we grew bored of that too. I mean, how do I know whether its a nice number? More importantly, am I getting more views, less views than my peers ? (An explicit example of this is the Typeracer App. Who types the fastest! By the way, my score is 64!)

I believe a few core innovations are necessary to sustain our faith and activity on Orkut. I'll cover these soon in the next post.


  1. Its very cool, I checked it - thanks for the post


  2. Facebook versus Orkut. An interesting analysis though both seem to be getting on my nerves of late.
    So much for 'social interaction'.

  3. I fully agree with you. I always face problem with the status msg...Its just of 100char.....It would be comfertable if it was 1000char or more.........Some times I want to let people knoe my mood through some song lyrics.........and status msg is the only way for it......

  4. I want minimum 500char in status msg....but these people wont do that.....Neither the face book has that long status msg....what If I want to describe my feelings to my friends there???.....

  5. Thanx for the valuable information. What is Orkut? Please provide information over it. Provide links to related topics if possible.

  6. Thanx for the valuable information. This was just the thing I was looking for. I am a orkut programmer and I wanted some Idea for my conference tomorrow. keep posting. Will be visiting back soon.


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