Orkut: The Scrapbook that Was.

Anyone remember those days when you sat in front of the computer passing time scrapbooking or writing out long testimonials for friends. Yes, that was almost a decade ago you say and that’s how old Orkut turned this January. Indeed it has been ten long years since Orkut first hit the World Wide Web scene and created a sort of trend among the users. But alas! This was not meant to last longer than it did and Google has finally announced that they will officially be shutting down Orkut on 30th September.

But let’s take a look at how it all began. There is an interesting story behind how Orkut came to be and typically it has something to do with a girl. The story is about a boy who lost his girlfriend in a train accident. However the girls name was nowhere to be found on the deceased persons list. So after a couple of years the boy grows up and becomes an IT technician and forms an online program to look for the girlfriend through the web. Things went as planned and he found her, after losing millions of dollars and 3 long years!!

The boy I’m talking about is the not so famous, Orkut Büyükkökten, a Turkish software engineer and the creator of Orkut. After Büyükkökten joint Google he devoted his 20% time (Google allots its employees to pursue personal projects and passions on 20% of the company time and using official resources) to developing the software which Google later took over.

Though it was developed as an experimental prototype and had not yet been tested or had built-in privacy policy or security reviews, on Sergey Brin’s insistence Orkut was launched as Google’s first networking site. The opening however was a disaster as Orkut began to be flooded with spam and pornographic material as in Finish ‘Orkut’ meant “multiple sexual climaxes”! This was a major setback for Google and they were forced to take down the product for re-launch.

So after a rough start Orkut was on the web at last. In the same year (2004) TheFacebook (now Facebook) as well was launched but with no potential threat to Orkut as it had by then become the second most used social site after MySpace. Surely Orkut was doing alright with major users in Brazil and India but it had not become a universal hit and had failed to tap the key market of USA which was slowly and steadily being taken over by the Facebook fever.

By July of 2010 Facebook had acquired the number 1 position and Orkut users were dwindling to bare minimum. This was the official beginning of the end of Orkut. Coming to the comparison of the two competitors, the Facebook users were more content with the privacy settings and Facebook had better applications as well. Facebook had been continuously innovating and reinventing itself whereas all Orkut had was a bunch of themes and a couple of applications and communities to join. Google was hardly interested in updating its features. Orkut has also had a fair share of social crime, racist activities and violation of democratic freedom of speech issues.

There is no doubt that Orkut is a great social networking site, at least for a while it was, and touched the lives of many people and introduced a lot of the world to online networking. However compared to its peers Orkut is hanging by a thread that will snap with one gust of wind. Their situation could have been better if Google had paid more attention to its proper development. But regrettably the reality is something else.