Orkut had a strange birth story. Back in the day (not very long ago,) Google was trying to break into the social media world by trying to buy the then popular platform, Friendster, for $ 30 million. However, Friendster was not ready to sell and this move by Google backfired. With no other platform ready for a buyout, Google decided the time had come to open its own platform. Enter Orkut.
The birth of Orkut
In the initial days of Orkut, it was an invite only platform, where people could join only if they were invited by their friends. While this attracted a trickle of users from North America, a majority of Orkut users were based out of Brazil and India! By July 2004, the ratio of Orkut users was 2 Brazilians to every one North American user, a case study which quickly created a demographic for this social media platform.
Orkut was so popular in countries like Brazil and India, a majority of the population from these countries thought Google was a subsidiary of Orkut and not the other way around. In fact, even the then CEO of Orkut said as much during an interview in 2009, “If you go to those countries (India and Brazil,) they often think that Orkut owns Google. And you talk to people in Brazil, they’re like oh, Google, you mean the subsidiary of Orkut?”
The rise in digitization and use of social media platforms in India and Brazil happened in tandem with the growth of Orkut. However, despite the numbers being increasingly high in these countries, the popularity just did not reach the rest of the world, a problem the makers didn’t think was possible when they launched Orkut.
The growth of this particular site also happened at a time when the middle class sector of developing countries started discovering the internet and could afford desktops. Unfortunately, the reach was just not as high as it was supposed to be and very soon, a short decade after its launch, Orkut started facing massive problems.
The fall of Orkut
The fall of Orkut fall can be attributed to the rise of other social media networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter. While Orkut did have an early launch edge (it launched a month before Facebook,) it just didn’t see growth the way these other platforms did. The moment Facebook launched, it realised the best way to compete with Orkut was by increasing its user friendly side.
Looking at the massive popularity Orkut had in India, Facebook realised the best way to get a hold in a country with a 2.2 billion population was by introducing user friendly languages, thereby making communication easier. With the rise of Facebook came the subsequent increase in Twitter’s popularity, giving Orkut extremely tough competition.
The final blow of sorts came to Orkut in 2011, when Google’s highly talked about Google Wave started going through a major landslide. A data breach scandal was all that was needed for Google to start losing its edge, a backlash that hit its other subsidiaries as well. Finally, with the severe negative reaction Google kept receiving, the company decided to finally shut down its social media arm, Orkut.
Google decided to shut down Orkut in September 2014, a decade post its launch, attributing this closure to the rise in users of its other platforms, namely Google Plus and Blogger. However, the shift in users to Facebook and Twitter was not cited as a reason, giving Orkut a gallant and respectful exit story.
Orkut’s rise to popularity, failure to keep up with the times and subsequent death is nothing short of a riveting cautionary tale. Stick with the times and grow with the trends. If not, then face the sure axe of death!