All the good names may be gone.
Reading this piece in Business Week on Google’s orkut and their plans for social domination, I figured it was finally time to give orkut a test drive to see what all the excitamento or halachala (I hope these are close) was all about.
Orkut is wildly popular in Latin America, more than doubling the combined traffic of Facebook and MySpace in that area of the world, and it recently passed MySpace as the most popular social network in Asia-Pacific. Of course, it’s “Big in Japan“. These regions of the world are voracious consumers of social networking, as noted in our Connect experiment.
This isn’t an orkut review, but here are my impressions:
- It’s way faster to load than Facebook. Rich and I have both noticed how slow Facebook has become lately, taking well over 8 seconds to load all that php goodness.
- It’s sparse, classic Google, with portlet like areas. Not a huge fan of portlets.
- Browsing for friends is pretty challenging.
- There are no import capabilities from say an email address book. GMail, anyone? This is odd to me because I was automatically added by virtue of my Google ID.
- There are no networks, a la Facebook.
- Using orkut as a feed reader is a nice feature.
- The UI isn’t as functional as I expected.
Anyway, it’s better than MySpace. It’s tough to give a real review without a decent network, so if you’re an orkutian, friend me and then convince me.
So, then I see that blognation is all worked up about Google buying Jaiku. I don’t use Jaiku, but from what I understand, it’s Twitter with a more erudite name. I’m not a huge fan of Twitter, but it’s semi-useful as a status tool. I think the idea has legs as an automated alert/notification collector, but anyway, Google is gearing up for the November 5 D-Day when they open the orkut code, or at least a bunch of APIs for orkut.
This is the big deal. By offering APIs for all their apps, Google pushes the integration work on you, the happy developer/user. I’m sure they’ll do integration at some level, but I wonder how much. For example, you’d think that Google Groups would have a slick way for you to share Google Docs with the group members. You’d be wrong.
Anyway, the potential for social mashups on the orkut platform is pretty awesome. Imagine mashing Google Maps with Google Calendar and orkut for planning and sharing events with your friends. This is basically what Upcoming does, except Upcoming has its own network. So, you have to re-add all your friends. Or how about sharing a document with your network, a.k.a. “content management” in the enterprise world. You could do this with box.net or Microsoft Live Spaces, but with Google Docs+orkut, everyone is already in the network. Data visualization tools open up too, when you combine your orkut network with Google Maps. This makes for a much richer social network than Facebook provides out of the box.
The network is the key because no one is an island, at least not online. Start with apps or start with network, either way, the two are better together.
The Facebook model is to add apps to the network, but Google already has the apps, putting them way ahead of Facebook in that area. I’ve speculated along with others about where Socialstream, the Google-funded research project that aggregates networks, plays into the Big Google Plan. Michael Arrington, at TechCrunch, seems pretty convinced that on November 5, Google will socialize its apps, which seems to mean overlaying the network functions on each app, as well as opening APIs for orkut.
This means Google may do both, i.e. socialize the apps and add meaningful apps to the network, and maybe, with Socialstream, aggregate your contacts into a single place, the Golden Ticket of social networking. I like this approach because it allows me to decide how to use my network of contacts. Maybe I don’t like the orkut UI, and among the Google apps, I use Google Docs almost exclusively. Adding my network to Google Docs allows me to take advantage of the social features without forcing me into a UI, like Facebook does.
Pretty cool stuff. I’m psyched to see what happens on November 5.