Watching 'Known' Grow... via Github
Reflections On Ello - October 5, 2014

R.I.P. Orkut, The First "Social Network" Many Of Us Used

Orkut logoI find it somewhat ironic that as many of us play with Ello, the newest social network to catch our attention, today marks the end of Orkut, one of the first "social networks" that many of us used. Google has shut it down, and the Orkut home page now is the home to the "community archive" of many of the group discussions that happened there over the years. A Google support page has more information about the shutdown - and how to export your data if you want to save it.

Orkut was quietly launched in late January 2004 ... ten years ago ... and I can dive back into Advogato where I used to write in those days and see that:

And... then that's pretty much all I seem to have written about Orkut... outside of a post in 2008 about Orkut planning to use OpenSocial (remember OpenSocial?).

And that's somewhat symptomatic of what happened to Orkut... other sites and social networks emerged that captured more of our attention. As the Wikipedia article about Orkut notes, the site became for a while a huge community for users in Brazil and also India... so huge in Brazil, in fact, that the site wound up ultimately being managed by Google's office in Brazil (and this is undoubtedly why the "community archive" appears in Portuguese).

But for many of us outside those regions, we moved on. Some to Friendster and MySpace... then to Twitter in 2006... Facebook... and tens of other social networks that are now lost to history... (ReadWrite has a nice timeline about the rise and fall of Orkut, including how Facebook overtook Orkut in Brazil in 2012.)

When Google announced back in June that Orkut would be shutting down today, it had been so many years that I couldn't even easily find my account on Orkut. With all of Google's various "accounts", there were a bunch of "Dan York" accounts... and my Orkut account wasn't among them. Obviously I'd missed that point in time when Orkut users were supposed to link their Orkut accounts to their Google accounts.

Still, it's worth pausing for a moment to remember Orkut. It was the first time that many of us dealt with "friends" and "fans". It's instructive to read this rant from danah boyd, venting my contempt for orkut... the whole "social networking" thing was so brand new in those days. Friendster was around, and a few others, but not many. Danny Sullivan's piece from that time is a good read, too.

And sadly, we never really got the "protocol for networking the social networks" that David Weinberger thought might arise (although there have been many attempts (recent example, the "IndieWeb", although that is more about linking publishing sites than true "social networks", but there is a 'social' aspect to it)).

R.I.P., Orkut ... you had a good run... and you helped introduce many of us to the concepts that would become simply part and parcel of the "social" world in which we live today.

UPDATE 1 Oct 2014 - Interesting infographic about the history of Orkut: Bye bye Orkut – A Look back into the History of Orkut

You can hear an audio commentary on this topic on SoundCloud: