Sep 5, 2007

Rules of the Orkut Age

That was the name of the discussion on CNN-IBN where the participants were blogger Rashmi Bansal, MTV's India GM Ashish Patil, lawyer Mohit Kapoor, Google India's MD Shailesh Rao and a consulting psychiatrist.

The audience was a motley mix of worried parents, some precocious 10-14 year olds (one stated "I don't like such sites" while another 12 year old said "I have not displayed my true age there")

The parents were worried that children don't go out to play so much since they spend 2-3 hours "orkutting" everyday. One even suggested the Google MD to make a system that Orkut logs out people who have been on it for longer than an hour.

Rashmi's point was that people who are not on Orkut take it much too seriously and youngsters who belong to certain communities on the network are view it as quite a फ़ालतू activity :-)

Anuradha SenGupta who was moderating the discussion asked Shailesh why is Orkut such a huge success in India...along with Brazil? The Google MD was quite clueless and gave some answer about how the need for connect is a universal need.

My take on it is quite different. Orkut was the first social network to really take off in India. Initially it was a 'invite only' network, and that fuelled a sense of "being with the crowd". And as the network grew it invited more and more people. In a sense it converted a lot of people who had only used the internet for email so far to make a profile there. The biggest thing was people's friends telling them "hey why aren't you on Orkut? All our classmates are there"

Ryze had been a big success in India for the older crowd until they made some disastrous changes and now they've stagnated.

The best comment in the discussion was by IBN's tech journalist Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan who said that earlier chatting was the rage and IRC was where all the youngsters went. But that has been replaced by IM now. Soon social networking will be figured out by people and we'll fit it into our normal virtual life-space.