Better social networking, Facebook or Orkut?

When I passed out of business school in 2005, Orkut was just getting popular in India. It probably existed before that, but, it was creating a wave among the school/college circles only by then. It was thrilling to touch base with old friends; those whom one never imagined to cross roads with, ever! As thrilling as it was, the same excitement seems to have died down somewhere down the line. Slowly, Facebook seemed to take over as “the” touch base tool. I have seen a lot of friends saying “goodbye” in Orkut and then saying “Hello” via FB.

For a long time, I didn’t bother to create a FB profile, because it is the same people I would be saying hello to once again. I had done all my ‘chaddi buddy’ search in Orkut itself and my list had gotten exhausted. However, out of curiosity about its growing popularity, I decided to check out FB.

FB looked good instantly. The interface was certainly far better than that of Orkut. The tools were certainly more advanced. But it took some time for me to figure out where the “wall” was, or how I could send private messages.  It felt more complicated than Orkut. Adding the same old friends didn’t make much sense to me, so I decided to stay away from FB and stick to same old!

Slowly, I noticed that Orkut was beginning to make changes to its interface by the hour. Tagging in photos, unlimited photo uploads, profile themes, whole lot of games and other applications, what not. It was facing great competition from its counterpart, FB. Very few of the changes seemed to be winning user hearts. What I made out is, while FB had become hugely popular in the US, Orkut had a major chunk of the Asian social networker population in its kitty. I am guessing that FB’s popularity among the US immigrant student crowd from Asia might be a reason for its initial attractiveness here.

FB and Orkut have one basic difference with regard to social networking – commenting. FB is all about other’s updates. One can stay in their home page and look at what is happening with everyone else. Not only look, but one can provide instant feedback without necessarily visiting another’s page. That’s the idea.  So, whether somebody has uploaded a picture or changed his status, won a game online or read an article, you can always say what you want, right from where you are now. On the other hand, Orkut requires one to visit the other’s profile page and leave a scrap or visit their album and comment on a photo.  Networking was seeming to take more time in Orkut.

This fundamental difference in interface, I feel, has made FB stand more true to its purpose, Social networking.

People like me, wouldn’t really want to leave Orkut being thankful for introducing the social networking concept to our lives. However FB looks like the one that will remain the window that will be maximized/minimized the most number of times on our desktops.