During the Google+ hype a few months back it seemed as if everyone was so excited that Google finally had a social network. And while I agree with the fact that Google+ was a substantial milestone for the Internet giant, I couldn’t help but to chuckle at the fact that next to nobody seemed to recognize the fact that Google had a social network already and had been somewhat quietly been holding onto it for several years. No, I’m not talking about Google Buzz, Google Groups, or even the thriving community that Google has in YouTube. Rather, I’m talking about a site that Google launched in January of 2004 – nearly eight years ago now and one that despite being virtually unknown throughout the United States is incredibly popular in Brazil, India, and the Philippines.
With an estimated 66 million active users, Orkut is probably about one-tenth the size (in regards to user-base) as Facebook. Nonetheless, Orkut, an independent project started by a Google employee has been around longer than Facebook, albeit only by about a month, and has a very loyal group of users. Sure, it’s not anywhere as large as Facebook or Twitter right now, but in retrospect to the Internet as a whole Orkut is incredibly popular, currently holding Alexa rankings of 119 (for orkut.com) and 114 (for orkut.com.br) worldwide.
But as intrigued as I am that no one seemed to give Orkut any thought when Google+ hype was in full scream, I’m even more curious as to why Google hasn’t worked to bridge the gap between Google+ and Orkut. After all, wouldn’t it only make sense for a company looking to create a top-notch social network to combine the two networks that they currently have in order to beef up their user-base and encourage new interaction? I’d think so.
Personally, I’m surprised that Google didn’t just build upon Orkut instead of creating a new social network from the ground up to start off with, as I would think that working with an established network would only help to fire-charge growth. But really, now that Google+ is a reality, I’m somewhat surprised that we haven’t seen Google make an attempt at moving users over from Orkut to Google+ in order to phase out their relatively unknown social network. Surely a great number of Orkut’s users have already messed around with Google+, and with a relatively small number of active users in total I honestly cannot see a migration being a huge challenge for Google.
But that’s just the thing. Google hasn’t made a peep about Orkut. To me, it almost seems as if Google has been trying to keep quiet about Orkut.
At the same time, though, the company decided to keep Orkut alive when they tossed out a number of other lesser successful Google products this month. This really confuses me, as Google seems to be in the middle about what to do with Orkut. The sheer fact that they haven’t done away with it signifies that they still see a purpose in holding onto it, but at the same time the failure to do anything with the social network (improve it, merge it, etc.) can’t help but to raise my curiosity.
In all honesty, it almost seems that Orkut is an insurance policy to Google. Right now with Google+ continuing on a nose-dive that started soon after it launched, I’m thinking that Google doesn’t want to put the little success that they have had in the social networking arena with Orkut at risk. If Google+ proves to be as disastrous as Google Wave or Google Buzz I don’t think the company wants to lose what it does have. I mean, what other reason would a company like Google have to hold onto two social networks? This is the only logical reason that I can think of.
What do you think? Will Google merge Orkut into Google+? Will they discontinue the service altogether, or will they leave Orkut alone like they’ve done so far? I’d love to hear your opinions!