Typically mentioned as the international competitor to Facebook, Orkut, Google’s “also-ran social networking site,” just launched a Google+ badge for users with both accounts – its first integration. “No, it’s not a big deal in terms of the feature itself (oooh, a badge), but it’s an indication of Orkut’s current status in Google’s eyes,” writes TechCrunch.
With 66 million users in Brazil and India, Orkut is alive and (sort of) well, but trailing Facebook substantially and may have missed the moment to level the playing field. In its recent IPO, Facebook said its active user base in Brazil had nearly tripled in 2011, placing it ahead of Google’s Orkut service as the leading social network in the country.
"I can't think of an example where Facebook has grown so quickly," commented Andrew Lipsman, VP of industry analysis at comScore, to Reuters. "It really just skyrocketed." So does that leave Orkut, which introduced many Brazilians to social networking, ditched at the dance?
The rise of Orkut, named for its creator, Google employee Orkut Büyükkökten, "coincided with an economic boom that lifted millions out of poverty, with many Brazilians gaining access to computers and the internet for the first time. That turned into a double-edged sword, both expanding Orkut's user base while alienating more-affluent early adopters,” Raquel Recuero, a professor at the Catholic University of Pelotas in Brazil, told Reuters.
As Facebook aggressively stepped up its game, Orkut did not address cultural issues, leverage its local advantage, or offer users games, apps and international connections beyond Brazil. Google appears more eager to build up its Google+ social platform by reaching out to Orkut's user base to combat Facebook, more so than building up Orkut itself.
As Orkut brings Google (and Google+) to the party, what a party it is! “Social media users in Brazil, China and India were more likely to consider social network sites a good source of word-of-mouth information on brand experiences than were users in the US, at 31%, 23% and 27%, respectively, vs. 18% in the US,” reports Emarketer.com, with over half of total social media ad revenues in 2012 projected to come from outside the US.
“What’s surprising is how gentle the Orkut to Google+ shift is beginning – a huge difference from Google’s other efforts at forcing G+ signups across its platform," writes TechCrunch, adding some free advice: "Google, if you’re going to go all in, don’t flounce around with Orkut. There’s a narrow window to push those Google-loving, social networking holdouts from one Google product to the next."