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.

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Enterprise 2.0

 

In my attempt to keep track of Web 2.0 trends, I came across a wide range of terms that have adopted the 2.0 series. There is Office 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Blog 2.0, News 2.0, RSS 2.0, Community 2.0, and guess what, I even found a blog titled Everything 2.0; I guess that’s the easiest way to put it!
I am not sure whether all these terms are in use officially or informally, but the clear indication is that all media types have a new implication and a new meaning to their users in the Web 2.0 era.

Out of these, Enterprise 2.0 is a term that I read in a McKinsey article illustrating a survey taken on the use of Web 2.0 by enterprises to run their businesses. The term was also found documented in Wikipedia.

We know that Web 2.0 is being widely used by individual users through applications like Facebook, eBay, Wikis, and social networking sites. Enterprise 2.0 is the usage of Web 2.0 applications in a company or corporate environment. That is, when individuals in a company use applications to share knowledge, information, ideas and expertise in a way that may benefit them in a professional and intellectual level, it also enhances their functioning in the company. This in turn helps the company leverage the benefits by building a competitive workforce to achieve its goals.

Does this strike a chord somewhere? We have heard and worked on something similar in our work environment, right? Yes, Knowledge Management. A simple contrast in this context will help understand the distinctive features of Web 2.0 from 1.0. KM is a classic example of a Web 1.0 practice in a company’s internal environment. KM involves imparting company practices, industry trends, processes, knowledge and expertise. This is done in a structured manner and the employees are only at the receiving end. So it is a “read only” application.

Enterprise 2.0 would a Web 2.0 version of KM where everybody participates. It is also termed as a “social software” which has no pre-determined structure. There will be sharing by everyone from all sides, in the form of RSS, Wikis, Blogs, Networking sites, Podcasts, etc. In this case, the company’s objective would be to bring about a culture of learning. Rather than imparting or training what the company knows and believes in, it is giving a chance to its employees to share their knowledge and opinions. This way, people get more involved, there is innovative thinking, zillions of ideas are thrown up, and each day employees learn at least a thing more than what they already know. Hence the word “sharing” in this context is being replaced by the buzzword “collaborate”.

 
Like any Web 2.0 application, for this concept to work well, there has to be maximum participation by employees. As we know, it is mainly the users and not just the technology that makes sites like Linkedin, Technorati or Amazon successful. So there has to be an effort from the management to not only make the interface attractive enough, but also to get employees involved. It is not an IT department responsibility; of course, they provide the support; but the initiative has to come from all business units. It is an enormous task and the results don’t come quick. It not only involves setting up of infrastructure and latest technology but also deciding the boundaries and limits.

In this context it is worth mentioning that apart from internal applications, Web 2.0 can also help in interacting with customers, by knowing what they want, how they want it and thereby fit the marketing strategy of a company. Similarly, it can help in the operations side as well, in terms of interacting with suppliers on a regular basis to ensure overall efficiency and effectiveness.

At the end of it all, when carried out well, Enterprise 2.0 promises to develop and instill a culture of learning in the organization. In a global economy with tremendous competition, only the fittest can survive; Enterprise and Web 2.0 incorporated in an organization can help breed the fittest.

Orkut Applications

 

 This post is more or less a continuation of the previous one, Web 2.0. It is about Orkut- another stunning example of the Web 2.0 revolution.

Orkut, as we all know is an online community which stimulates the “social animal” in a person. They define themselves, “orkut is an online community designed to make your social life more active and stimulating.”

Orkut strikes the right key with its users. You can find it as a minimized window on any 18-30 year old Indian’s desktop, at least once a day. Why so?

Orkut or any Web 2.0 product/company for that matter cannot be successful without constant user need perception, up-gradation and feedback. It is a never ending loop. There are so many portals providing similar services that differentiating becomes inevitable for sustenance.

When I first logged on to orkut in 2005, this is what it had –

Ø friends list and related features

Ø testimonials

Ø communities

Ø photos up to a certain limit

Ø ‘scrapping’ and messaging

Ø a simple search facility

Gradually they added these –

Ø videos

Ø photos up to any limit

Ø optional profile lock to keep away curious strangers

Ø recent updates from friends feature

Ø ‘ask friends’ feature for common messages

Ø blog, picasa incorporation feature

Ø integration with gmail (where ids from orkut are directly updated to one’s gmail address book

All these add-ons are certainly a result of the ‘loop’. They found that people needed to share more photos with their loved ones, so increased the photo limit; they understood that integrating the mail ids on orkut with gmail would reduce the effort to check/cross check mail ids each time; they recognized that by showing ones’ profile updates his friends can find out that he has read a new book or got married, found a new job or traveled to new places; they accepted that one needed his own privacy on a wide reaching public utility, one needed to feel free to express himself within his own boundaries!

What do I say? ‘That’s Google’ or ‘That’s the power of Web 2.0’?

The recent update from Orkut is called “Orkut applications”. It’s a huge step. Now one can share applications like games, music, videos, slideshows, books, jobs, and what not! You name it and they’ve got it!

Its like integrating all other Web 2.0 portal ideas in one, shelfaris, slide.coms, snapfishes, monsters, cricinfos, bollywood4us, again, you name it!!

Of course, in the process the users gain, but what’s in store for business?

Tim O’Reilly put it aptly,

“Web 2.0 is the understanding that the network is the platform and on the network as the platform, the rules for business are different. The cardinal rule is this one – Users add value. Figuring out how to build databases that get better when more people use them is actually the secret source of every Web 2.0 company.”

Need I say more?

Web 2.0

web 2.0

Recently I got introduced to this term Web 2.0, which was coined in 2004 by O’Reilly as a result of a brainstorming session. Evidently, Web 2.0 is a sequel to Web 1.0, but what is Web 1.0 in the first place?

Web 1.0 is the World Wide Web or Internet we have known in the 90s and early 2000s; the Web that was used to post information in the form of websites which were mostly used by companies, Governments and other special interest groups; hence almost entirely drawing a one-way traffic. Of course, there were e-mails and chat programs, but that is pretty much all that represented a two-way communication.
Over the years, developers and experts have evolved a more interactive version of the Internet; a two-way, rather, an all-way traffic that has increased participation, contribution and extraction by all users alike.

Ohhh yeah, welcome to Web 2.0! The World Wid(er) Web of googles, yahoos, picasas, blogs, wikis and ebays!

According to Tim O’Reilly –
“Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.”

The Web 2.0 buzz which is characterized by many other buzzwords like wikis, blogs, social-networking, open-source, open-content and file-sharing, is supported by a totally new generation of Internet based techniques and languages like Java, AJAX, Flash, etc.

My post is not about digging deep into its technicalities but I would like to focus on the business points of view.

Clearly, the realization that the Internet can be a great instrument to cater to business needs has really been the pushing force for this development. Businesses always need to move with time, technology and people; its a matter of survival. They have gone hand in hand with every revolution- the newspapers, the radio, the television and the mobile technology. Now, the arrival of the 21st has posed great opportunities to explore the latest revolution, the Web.

In the early years after Y2K, businesses realized that they could not only post their company information on the Web, but also use it to seek information from people viewing their sites. This in turn can help them channel the interest from people, to interact and get a lot of first hand information about matters that can be crucial to business decision-making.

Business existence depends entirely on the needs of its market. And if the Web can not just help reach out to its market but even widen it, why not use it to the fullest? The uses of Web 2.0 are wide and the list never seems to end – advertising, networking, partnering, broadcasting, researching and so and on. What more, now, visionaries are creating excellent business models around the Web itself!

Technology developers working for businesses are literally getting into the hearts of the users to attract them to using the Internet. ‘User friendliness’ defines everything they try to do. Other forms of media are being integrated with the Web and now, one can read a newspaper, listen to the radio, watch television or read books online. The result? People are gradually getting hooked onto the Web.

Web 2.0 has very wide implications to many businesses. Take the recruiting industry, for example. It started out with a system where a prospective candidate goes to a company website to get their HR generic id and sends and email with his resume. Then came career links in company sites that accepted form data from the candidate, enabled him to upload his resume and submit the data to the company’s database that could be internally be accessed by its hiring department. Slowly, business models were developed around an external recruiting firm that catered to needs of the companies as well as candidates and created a common platform for them to match their needs. While these are still widely popular, a model based on social/business networking and referrals is being exploited in the form of networking sites like LinkedIn, Ryze, Facebook, Orkut, etc. Newspaper employment ads are being posted on the Internet too and job/recruiting blogs are also featuring Government vacancies online. A whole lot of websites provide both free and paid services for career development resources. Can it get easier than this?

In short, Web 2.0 is characterized with vast and wide-reachable audience, unstoppable competition, enormous payback and endless scope for strategizing!
Will this sequel continue? We must wait and see!

References and must reads –

http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0

http://www.paulgraham.com/web20.html