These days Orkut keeps me busy: Google's popular social networking tool that allows you to connect virtually to friends, pass small messages, share photos and even talk with your fellow Orkutians. People who had long receded into the dark alleys of my conscious memory suddenly pop out of nowhere and drop me a scrap. (A scrap is a small message that you scribble in your buddy's virtual scrapbook, for all you non-Orkutians). The last 100 days have not passed without me getting back in touch with a old friend or acquaintance of mine every 2 days once. Hardly any time to get a sketch of all the water that has passed between us during this time that another one pops up. Orkut literally has taken my world by storm.
However one thing seemed very strange. How come so many friends sense I am on Orkut? I dug through Orkut's official knowledge repository and came up with something that exactly pinpointed at this kinda odd feeling that lingered with me.
Nearly 11% of Orkut's 31,727,243 people are Indians, which is close to 3.5 million Indians. Whoa !!! Indians form the 3rd largest group among Orkutians, after Brazilians and Americans. No wonder all my people are there on Orkut.
I would say that these 3.5 million Indians are just the early adopters in a product's normal distribution curve. Imagine the day when Indians start thronging Orkut gates in swarms. Maybe Google anticipated it and changed the model from a "by-invite" only to a "free-for-all" model. I dread the day India overtakes Brazil in terms of Orkutians. Better get back to polishing my Orkut skills.
Problems abound too with certain features like hate communities, viruses, and open architecture of Orkut creating problems to users of the service. Recently, the Bombay High Court's Aurangabad bench served a notice on Google for 'allowing a hate campaign against India'. This referred to a community on Orkut called 'We Hate India' which carries a picture of an Indian flag being burnt and some anti-India content. Then there are problems of an Indian social site called Gazzag that is viral in nature and uses Orkut's open API architecture to invite all users of a new person who has signed up to Gazzag by soliciting him/her for their Orkut username and password.
Inspite of these problems, Orkut, I feel, is poised to turn into one big online social virtual world in India given its rising popularity. The sheer reason being that its popularity is driven by a heady cocktail of emotional satisfaction, the pride of a 3 digit friend count and the need to have all your folks online so that it makes your Orkut existence a meaningful one. All these result in each of the existing Orkut users calling other people online.
Network effect and User created content is all that is there at this site. Google stands to benefit from all this due to the sheer brilliance of their Turkish engineer Orkut Büyükkökten, who developed Orkut during his spare time at Google. Does "advertising potential" for Google strike a bell?. Just wait and see as the future unravels.