I've been trying out Orkut some more and I'm now pretty sure I think it is lame. There is the problem I mentioned previously in that it doesn't provide a way to create a hierarchy of friendships (i.e. differentiate friends from acquintances, business partners from co-workers, etc) which by the way Don Park has an interesting solution for called Friendship Circles. The other reason I've decided it rubs me wrong is that it tends to encourage the collapsing of the various facets of a person's s social life as pointed out by Warren Ellis along with other criticisms which I agree with. Warren Ellis wrote
Right now, it looks pretty much like an iteration of the Tribe.net system, with an eye on Friendster's apparent main function as a dating system. (Which means, oddly, it requests your business profile at the same time as it's asking you where you like to be fingered.) (Okay, maybe not.)...
My current list of friends is mostly folks I know through geeking at work or on the Internet. Some I'd call friends and some I'd call acquaintances. Particularly interesting to me is the stark contrast that would show up if I actually had some of the folks I actually consider my close friends up there next to folks who's primary connection to me is work or being subscribed to the same mailing lists. It would be folks with completely different, contrasting sets of people.
However this isn't what I found interesting. I noticed that folks could form groups or communities on Orkut about specific topics and one of the ones I found by exploring the various friend-of-a-friend links was the Legalize Marijuana community. Considering that the various links I followed were mostly professional relationships I thought it was particularly bold and mayhap foolhardy for folks to do the equivalent of labelling themselves as drug users or at least “pro-drug”. I find this aspect of social software fascinating. I have already begun to notice how a blog collapses the various facets of one's character as one tries to serve different audiences including from friends & family to co-workers & customers. Adding to this delicate dance by exposing ones relationships from the mundane & innocent to the illicit & illegal to all and sundry including your boss, co-workers, business partners and any random person with an Orkut account is probably more than I can stomach. That doesn't change the fact that there is somewhat of a voyeuristic thrill navigating some of these relationships. I just wonder how many private and business relationships have been or will be started or ended on the strength of some of the things discovered by navigating the various friend-of-a-friend links between various individuals.
By the way, the rest of Warren Ellis's criticisms of Orkut are also ones I share so I'm including them below instead of repeating them myself in poorer prose
It's coping pretty well as it starts taking the weight of several thousand early explorers. Most of whom, if they follow the accelerating process that's left Friendster a relative wasteland and given Tribe a bit of an echo, will be out of there again in a few weeks. It's faster than Fuckster and Tribe, but it shows that all these friend-of-a-friend things have really hit a wall. I mean, what can you actually do aside from invite all your friends and piss about on a couple of small message boards? Message boards that, unlike Tribe, allow anonymous postings and therefore devalue the message board experience? What happens after that? After you've gotten all your friends in -- whom you send email to or IM regularly in any case, presumably. That's it. All done. Until, I guess, yet another social network system opens and you start all over again. These things want to be a hub for your Internet community experience, but they're just not necessary enough. Tribe gets closest, but it's nothing you're going to leave as an open window on your desktop all day. The first new social network system that builds an IM program into its structure may have a shot...And that has to be their goal. I mean, who builds a social network system that doesn't want people to use it all the time?
If services like Orkut and Friendster were part of portals I was already using such as Yahoo! or MSN then I'd probably stick around but as standalone sites they just don't make much sense. Maybe part of their goal is to get bought by bigger companies who hopefully can figure out what to do with them [which seems to be the case with Orkut] in which case it looks like the dot bomb era isn't quite dead yet.