The New (much) Improved Friendster

google, people and relationships, society, technology

Well, if you’re as much of a geek as I am — or even if you just are a geek wannabe and voraciously read the tech rags — you’ve likely already heard about Orkut.com.

Well, I’ve had a chance to play with it for a day or so, and it’s rather fascinating. Though clearly not-yet-perfect, it’s still fun and quite a bit ahead of Friendster in many ways.

Let me get some criticisms and concerns out of the way first:

– There aren’t enough checks and balances
It’s too easy to add (and then be unable to un-add) a friend, delete a message, and so on. There are no “Are you sure?” screens. Aside from preventing ‘oops’ moments, I think it would at least be helpful to gently remind folks to carefully choose their friend links, as in “By adding this person as a friend, you’re making a statement that you know and like this person. Are you sure you want to do this?” Otherwise, the system is more apt to end up with a zillion useless/meaningless friend linkages.

– As of yet, the search features are anemic
You can search only by a small handful of esoteric and broad fields, and cannot search by company name, interests, etc… though indeed orkut.com has noted that this functionality is slated for future versions.

– Information display is far from optimal
On the search results page, the info you get is minimal on each person, and generally not enough to give you a good idea of whether it’s worth your time to click through to their profile. Ideally, it’d be nice to be able to choose which data points are shown, but in the meantime, it’d be nice to at least see some professional info (e.g., company name) on such listings.

– The invite process is kludgy
You can’t invite groups of friends, you can’t (easily) individually customize the invite e-mails, and it seems you can’t access a generic invite URL to send in your own e-mails.

Me Too?
Perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects of orkut.com for me is that there’s no real sense of its ‘place.’ It mingles in just enough romantic/flirty/goofy stuff to be potentially off-putting to serious business networkers, but it’s unlikely to be enough to compete with Match.com, Yafro, and other friends-oriented networking services.

* * *

Okay, enough whining. There’s certainly much to admire and appreciate in orkut.com!

– It’s FAST!
Sure, this isn’t that impressive YET given the limited member set (2464 members as of 2:40pm PST, and seemingly growing by about 50-100 every hour since this morning), but boy, that speed sure is refreshing right now! And given Google’s track record on efficiency/speed, I am confident that orkut will remain delightfully quick on its feet.

– It’s quite the A-List party at present
From my experience (and, biased-ly, my friendships), Google hires uber-intelligent and interesting folks. Given that at least 50% of the current orkut.com members seem to be Googlers, the service is starting with a pretty intellectual and powerful foundation.

– It has great potentialLook at past Google projects that started out as pet projects, like Google News. There is clearly a history of refinement and success with these projects, and while orkut.com is clearly not yet version 1.0 material due to needed feature enhancements and interface tweaks, it’s certainly a fun and impressive beginning.

* * *

It’ll be fascinating to see if — or perhaps, more likely when — orkut overtakes the slow-and-feature-poor-but-critically-massed Friendster.

Additionally, will Google’s entrant into this market stimulate demand enough for online social networking so that more sites (including the stellar Tribe.net) will flourish by the expanding pie? Or will orkut.com — like Google search, to a great extent — basically crowd out all competitors? What do you think?

* * *

Added 1/24/04 5:16pm:
Wow, just got my first application error while browsing orkut. Bummer.

6 comments… add one
  • Mark Mascolino Jan 24, 2004

    So did you happen to sign up before it was invite only or do you have some well connected friends?

  • Peter Caputa Jan 25, 2004

    Can you invite me to visit orkut please?

  • nick Jan 28, 2004

    could you please invite me as well?

  • Christopher Feb 3, 2004

    I’m not sure I want to belong to the Uber-intellectual Cyber-set crowd. Heck, the Mason’s offer a pseudo-religios, secret handshake, ultra-exclusive favor swapping club already. And besides, how do you execute a secret handshake in cyberspace?

  • Adam Feb 3, 2004

    > And besides, how do you execute a secret handshake in cyberspace?

    Very carefully! 😀

  • James Mar 11, 2008

    Definitely, you need to make sure your privacy while connecting with online friends and making a relationships.

What do you think?