Google Orkut: A Social Network Pioneer

July 2, 2014

Now that I have some free time in my golden years, I enjoy going through my archive of search and content processing content. I read in “Google Shutters Orkut, Its First Crack at a Social Network.” The write up provides some history; to wit:

Ten years ago, Orkut was Google’s first foray into social networking. Orkut Büyükkökten created the site using Google’s notion of “20 percent time”—that employees could dedicate a fifth of their work week to developing projects not directly related to their work (as long as those projects were cool, and could become Google projects). Orkut, launched a month before Facebook and five months after MySpace, has what most social-networking sites have: profile pages, photos, groups (called “communities”), and apps. And even through two redesigns, it retained some vestiges of the MySpace era, such as themes and a more prominently displayed list of friends.

Intrigued by the reference to “before Facebook”, I dipped into my archive of search goodness and spotted some interesting factoids about Orkut. Frankly speaking, I don’t think even the most intrepid Beyond Search reader cares too much about search and content processing history. I find the past fascinating because the present state of online services leaves me with indigestion.

Let me highlight some nuggets from my Google Orkut file. None of these made the cut for my first study of Google, published a decade ago as The Google Legacy by a defunct publishing company somewhere in merrie olde England.

ITEM: Litigation between Affinity Networks and Google about the Orkut service and some of its code and functions. I lost track of the lawsuit in 2005, but it would not surprise me if it is still alive and kicking. You can get a sense of dispute by scanning this Justia document. Innovation is an interesting business for Google.

ITEM: In 2005, Information Week ran a story which I assume is semi accurate. “Brazilian Police Bust Dope Ring Built Around Google’s Orkut” asserted:

Police in Brazil arrested a gang of drug dealers who were using Google’s popular Orkut social networking site to sell ecstasy and marijuana…

I recall learning at one of the police and intel conferences that Orkut was a go to service in Brazil for some fascinating activities. As Facebook was ramping up with college students, Orkut seemed to be appealing to a different type of social network maven.

ITEM: “Intermediary Liability in Latin America” reported in 2010 that Google faced in 2010 “faces at least 600 lawsuits in Brazil. The most famous of those cases was filed by two Brazilian teenagers against the Google-owned social networking site Orkut over dirty jokes that allegedly offended them.”

Orkut is a gone goose. For some, the announcement will be bittersweet.

Stephen E Arnold, July 1, 2014


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