On 30th June 2014, Google announced that it was closing down its ten year old social networking platform, Orkut. What does that mean for social networking?Orkut was among the first social networking platforms and became popular in Brazil and India. i.e. two of the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) which were identified by investors as the four fastest developing and powerful economies in the world, which have recently been joined by the 'MINT' countries (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey).
Orkut's popularity reflected the developing internet infrastructure in Brazil and India, as well as their growing middle classes which could afford the technology to get onto the internet.
Orkut's popularity has waned in recent years. Nonetheless, some users were saddened by its demise, if you are to believe their Twitter posts:
Sad to say #goodbye to #Google #Orkut, you served me well.and
— Arthur Oyako (@aoyako) July 8, 2014
#Orkut's funeral date is finally upon us. For some reason it makes me sad. When will #MySpace accept the same fate? pic.twitter.com/rOuEp5byR6
— Edward Herbert (@ed_herbert) July 8, 2014
Platforms are back
Meanwhile, in June 2011, Google launched another social networking platform, namely Google+, to compete with Facebook and other 'platforms'.
Platforms are expensive to build and to run. The costs come from hosting vast amounts of data in the form of photos, videos, text, conversations and live streaming.
Of course, Google can afford Google+, much as Microsoft has kept its Hotmail (now Outlook.com) platform free for all these years. The benefits they gain from hosting all of that data which users put on it for free is worth the cost, as long as they have scale (i.e. lots of users uploading lots of data).
With scale, Google will benefit from being able to market other products and services to its users and be targeted about the messages it helps advertisers convey. This is exactly what Facebook does.
Orkut's closure was inevitable. Why keep two platforms running when you can migrate all those users over to a single social networking site? Google+ has over 540 million users. It is likely that with Orkut users migrating over to Google+ will increase the latter's user base by several million, maybe 10 to 20 million.
It's not just the cost of the platform either. Orkut has been facing a number of legal problems in Brazil because of some groups set up on the site. Google looks like it is trying to minimise these problems by getting control back of its users who may have to sign a new agreement to use Google+.
Above all, the closure of Orkut will help to develop Google+ and to make its competitive position stronger in a world where social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook are fighting like 'cat and dog' to keep people using their sites by keeping them up to date with new tools and lots of interesting, user generated content.