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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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?