The Rise & Fall Of India’s Youth Icon

It was year 2005 and Orkut was becoming a sensation in modern India. It was spreading virally. The Orkut phenomenon was more viral than almost any word of mouth epidemic I have seen (in India). Yes, even Twitter’s fast growth in India is no way near to the way Orkut grew. It was almost like one fine morning you wake up and you find all your friends (and family) addicted to a piece of Web App called Orkut. Orkut captured the imagination of India youth to such a extent that it was awarded The MTV Youth Icon for the year 2007. Orkut won the award inspite of competing with likes of Abhishek Bachchan, Rang De Basanti& Multimedia Cell Phones.

Orkut - MTV Youth Icon 2007
On reflecting back I think Orkut’s popularity in India was because of one or more of the following reasons.
1). Orkut had a very low entry-barrier. It was dead simple. Unlike Myspace, hi5 (and ‘n’ number of other social networks) Orkut had very less features making it more user friendly, less complicated.
2). For a majority of Indians Orkut was their 1st social network. Orkut made Indians discover social networking along with its addictive nature (more about “the nature of social networking” in future post).
3). It had very good (or cool) look and feel and Indian users almost considered it as a bench mark in both design and quality because it was endorsed by Google.
Orkut India
4). Orkut made online contact management a cake walk. Integration with GMail (Google contacts) made it even simpler. Note- Part of the reason Yahoo! Mail fell of its knees in India
5). Orkut Album became a default photo sharing hub. The semi-public nature of Orkut album was perfect for Indians. Note – Part of the reason Flickr never took off in India
6). Scraps emerged as a new messaging protocol. Scrapping someone was more appealing than sending a short E-Mail (considering the user was ready to trade off the privacy and was not available for chat).
Orkut == (YOU)th
7). Orkut Communities emerged as powerful Forums to discuses and debate (although I never found Orkut communities useful). Just a note -India Community on Orkut has around 1 million members with a rather hyper active Forum.

Few other trends of the Orkut Era
1). Integrated nature of Orkut and GMail killed Yahoo! Mail in India. Yahoo! Mail which not too long back was default E-Mail address of Indians was now replaced by Gmail.
2). Then as Gmail became popular the integration of Google Chat with GMail killed Yahoo! Messenger.
3). Although rest of the world was busy uploading their latest photos on Flickr, Indians preferred Orkut Album. Y? Because unlike Flickr, Orkut Album was semi-public in nature with privacy options. Indians would never have been comfortable making their online album 100% open to public gaze. Orkut Album never left any room for Flickr.
So, Yahoo! was more or less fading out of the Indian tech scene by 2008.
Statutory Warning : You might not like what I am about to write.
It is year 2009 and Orkut suck, it is boring, it is monotonous, it has way too less features with not many apps, it is buggy (no donuts for you!),
Orkut is buggy

it does not facilitate sharing, no vanity URL hence no public profile, Orkut communities still sucks, scraps are dead (scraps? wtf? I tweet now!), no blog widgets, obviously I cannot search and monitor real time data on Orkut unlike Facebook (and Twitter) and it is does not help me drive traffic to TechDusts (I know I am a selfish brat! but the fact remains that Twitter and Facebook alone helps in bringing hundreds if not thousands of visitors to TechDusts everyday).

Times have changed and the world is quickly moving towards the next generation of social networks where scrapping is not as cool as updating your status message every hour. The problem with Orkut is that after a certain point of time it did not evolve. Unlike Facebook, Orkut never embraced real time sharing (like Twittter), Apps (I know Orkut has App but they are in no way comparable to Facebook) and host of other innovative feature like fan page, public profile etc. Orkut did not realize that people are done with making friends and would get bored if they are not served with new functionalities. Sorry to say Indian’s ex – youth icon who earlier was at the centre stage of my online life now serves as my birthday reminder boy. I never thought this would happen. I only log into Orkut to get updated with upcoming birthdays of my friends.

Orkut's Fluctuating Traffic in India Vs Facebook's Steady Growth
Facebook Ranked 4 (above Orkut) in India
Social Network Map
People in India might get offended with what I have written but the reality is – In a span of one year Orkut has lost a huge share in India. It is losing heavily in Brazil and the rest of the World has almost abandoned it. Snap shot of New OrkutI was very pleased to see a makeover of Orkut a couple of days back. You didn’t notice? It is invite only (as of now) and you might get over it in a couple of months when it is fully functional. Have a look at the snapshot to get an idea of what it is.

It looks a lot like Facebook. Can’t really say whether this make over will help Orkut regain it users who have already migrated to Facebook. Orkut needs to act fast or it might become a not so dominant second player in India, after Facebook of course.

P.S- Check out the interactive Map of social networking at the bottom of the post. To keep yourself updated with similar awesome stories from TechDusts you might want to subscribe to our RSS Feed or E-Mail News Letter. Bookmark it on delicious for future reference.
The Rise & Fall Of India’s Youth Icon The Rise & Fall Of India’s Youth Icon Reviewed by RD Singh on 08:17 Rating: 5
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