Come October and Google will be putting to rest its first ever social network – Orkut.
Launched in 2004, the same year as Facebook, the social media site was once a force to reckon with. But time took a toll and it lost out to rivals like Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps we can take heart in the fact that Orkut was once one of the most-visited websites in countries like India and Brazil, despite a lukewarm adaptation in markets like the US. Brazil once constituted 50 per cent of total Orkut users, while India – at 20 per cent – stood at distant second.
However, in India, Orkut was undeniably the first famous social networking website.
Initially, Orkut saw impressive growth, but was stopped short on its tracks with the advent of Facebook. By 2010, Facebook had taken over Orkut even in markets like Brazil and India. What does come out pretty pertinently that Orkut’s success can be largely measured by its impact on countries like the two BRICS markets, while Facebook had to spread its wings far and wide till it was a global phenomenon.
Today, Google has YouTube, Blogger, and Google Plus in its kitty – a bouquet of social media at varying degrees and levels of popularity. Understandably, Google has had to give in and announce scrapping of Orkut and divert its resources to something more productive and profitable.
“Over the past decade, YouTube, Blogger and Google+ have taken off, with communities springing up in every corner of the world. Because the growth of these communities has outpaced Orkut’s growth, we’ve decided to bid Orkut farewell,” Google said in a post on the Orkut blog.
As one of the early birds in the social networking platform, it was Orkut that helped people start online conversations and forge connections, something netizens had never known could exist before. It popularied posts or “scraps” between friends. At one point of time, it was a hub for online interactions and photo sharing. For the youth, Orkut soon became an addiction, a place where you could write messages, create profiles and testimonials.
For India and its youngsters, status updates, profile pictures and online dating were once alien, and it was with Orkut that they were indoctrinated into the enthusiastic and unique world for virtual networking. The platform seemed to be just the place the young were waiting for to connect and discuss their interests and passions. It gave them, particularly the Indian teens, their first online space. Lovers scrapped one other, friends posted testimonials praising, even criticising, their near and dear ones. For some, Orkut even played cupid and many a marriage was made because of it. You had to Orkut, as they say, to love.
It was on Orkut that the community culture began in India, long before the landing of Facebook Pages. It introduced the virtual world to the likes of hate and fan communities. Most users were members of at least a few of these. Users would join the community of their favourite bands, video games, sports and so on. In a way it was a trendsetter that revolutionised the concept of social networking.
“Orkut was the first social platform to be used widely to connect not only with our school and college buddies, but also make friends in the virtual world. Strangers became friends, who later became lifetime friends,” recollects journalist Supriya Sharma.
“In an era when letters and slam books were completely replaced by e-mail and online chatting, Orkut swept us all like a wave, giving us a whole new ‘avatar’, online,” said another user of those days.
The reactions to Google’s announcement have been mixed. Some praised, while others lamented. Some wrote requiems too. Those who could not get over their nostalgia associated with it have been waxing nostalgic. It was a travel down memory lane for them.
“Google’s first social network was actually successful in its day, and 10 years is a pretty good run for a social network. It’s time for a retirement party,” wrote Lily Hay Newman, Lead Blogger for Future Tense.
Orkut’s legacy as Google’s first successful attempt at social media will live on in the nostalgia of Orkut users, felt Newman.
“I can’t live without Orkut. Orkut is my life,” wrote one user in an Orkut online community called “Time to say goodbye to Orkut”.
Says Kriti Giridhar, 25, a junior research fellow at PGI, Chandigarh: “Although I created an Orkut profile with a fictitious name, I was initially apprehensive about logging on to the site. But after a while, after I had become familiar with social networking, I had a lot of fun in school and college. Though I didn’t become hooked to the site, I was crazy to peep into others’ profiles. Google should have revamped Orkut instead of deciding to shut it down.”
“I loved Orkut testimonials in which my friends wrote whatever they felt about me. I’ll definitely miss my fan list,” says Aman Grewal, a 30-year-old businessman from Chandigarh.
Here are some Tweets:
Suresh Rolan @sureshrolan: “Shutting down #Orkut is like removing life support system from a brain dead patient in coma since a decade”
Sukh Sandhu @SukhSandhu: “People change, feelings fade, things go wrong, memories remain, but life goes on. RIP #Orkut”
Kunal Panja @kunalpanja: “Sad to see #Orkut decommissioned.It was the father of social networking & played an important role in my life. #riporkut #byeorkut”
Ironical that the tweets are in praise of the trendsetter in whose death Twitter has had a significant contribution.
With changing time, people’s preference changed, so did the relevance of Orkut. Users’ preference changed in such a way that they checked Zuckerberg’s Facebook almost every day, and Orkut once a year. In the meantime, Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking juggernaut grew rapidly.
Besides, the social-networking world is starkly different from when the site launched a decade ago. Facebook is now the clear king of social with more than 1.2 billion users. Other mobile social networks like Instagram and Snapchat also have become popular among young people.
Under these circumstances, it was difficult for Orkut to survive with 20 million early users and the growing dominance of these global brands. Over the years, Orkut’s relevance and number of users dwindled, forcing Google to announce the tough decision. With passage of time, Orkut also passed their prime.
Meanwhile, in a bid to preserve that legacy, Google has decided to keep an archive of all public communities, which will be available online starting September 30, 2014.
To quote the Google blog post that announced the demise: “Orkut helped shape life online before people really knew what ‘social networking’ was.”
“Goodbye Orkut, we will miss you and thanks for everything!”