Abhi 2.0 on Technology

Abhimanyu Radhakrishnan’s Tech Archive: Columns, reports and video

Posts Tagged ‘Orkut

Facing The Google-y

with one comment

First published in the Hindustan Times (Mumbai edition)

Column in HT

Column in HT

For someone’s who not even six months into the job, Shailesh Rao seems incredibly at ease. The new Managing Director of Google India made his first major television appearance as a panelist on the CNN-IBN special program called “Rules of the Orkut Age”, which was telecast over the weekend. You would think that Shailesh has little patience with the media after all the trouble with the Shiv Sena, Mayawati, murder cases and government discomfort about Google Earth. Well, not only did he agree to come on the show, he was also rather honest. He admitted for starters, that his company really had no idea why Orkut is such a rage only in Brazil and India and not even on the radar in the rest of the world. The panel was televised with a live audience comprising parents, teachers and schoolchildren. Rao was mobbed by the kids after the discussion was over and he looked a bit overwhelmed for the first time that day. Some of the children seem to be masters of the medium and made some pointed suggestions. “Uncle, when you click on that page, there’s one link in the corner that gives you only three options and there should be a fourth option for ..” and so on and so forth.

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My own use of Orkut, in a way breaks all traditional rules. I’ve put up my real picture and my actual contact details such as email ID and office address. I add ANYONE who asks to be added, EXCEPT people whom I know. Thats right, each and every “friend” of mine on Orkut is someone whom I’ve never met. That’s because, we have a large Tech 2.0 community on Orkut and we’ve decided to use it as a sounding board for the website and the TV show. All Tech 2.0 team members are online and are encourage to accept all friend requests. Tons of readers and viewers, all inherently interested in technology join the group and go berserk arguing with each other in the message board about which mobile phone is better and how they hate each other’s digital guts! They start their own opinion polls and put in requests and feedback. A lightly moderated community on a social networking site can be a terrific tool for anyone in the business of building an audience. As for the people I know, I add them on Facebook! Seperation of church and state ie personal and professional is essential in cyberspace!

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I’m not sure if this is directly related to any diktat from the Indian government but it seems like too much of a co-incidence. The tiny cantonment town of Wellington near Coonoor in the Niligiris has been blurred out by Google Earth. I was using Picasa – Google’s online web album service – to tag some old photos taken when my father was posted at the Defence Services Staff College. The program was not allowing me to zoom into the area, though the adjoining towns were clearly visible. This seems strange because although Wellington has a military facility, its an educational setup and not an operational base with weapons. Civilians can roam most parts of the town freely and officers from friendly nations also attend the one year course. Could this location be on a list that the government has given Google India? Well, the harbour, jetties and other facilities, for instance, of India’s massive new Naval base at Karwar on the coast of Karnataka are crystal clear in the satellite imagery. Obviously there’s some gray area here – and I’m not talking about the map of Wellington!

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Written by Abhi 2.0

September 3, 2007 at 1:45 am

Social NOTworking ?

with one comment

First published in the Hindustan Times (Mumbai edition)
Column in HT Cafe

Column in HT Cafe

Orkut has finally decided to acknowledge that it is a rage in India by announcing that it will conduct special Independence day polls on the site. Google’s social network has been getting all kinds of bad press lately, not to mention threats from the Shiv Sena, even though the party patriarch’s grandchildren are fairly active users. I’ve always wondered why Orkut is such a big hit in some countries (60% of the traffic is from Brazil and about 15% from India) but a complete dud in Europe and North America. Very few Indians use MySpace which rules the roost in the US though Facebook is apparently becoming very popular especially among those who’ve studied overseas. In fact the whole “social networking” thing is a bit crazy and no one knows who’s going to survive and more importantly what can be monetized and how. The original pioneers like Friendster, LinkedIn, Ryze and Classmates have rapidly been overtaken and specialist networks like Youtube (videos) Flickr (photos) and Digg (News) have just complicated the whole thing.

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The social networking scene in India is displaying classic “bubble” symptoms. President of Reliance Entertainment, Rajesh Sawhney recently told contentsutra.com that Big Adda, the ADAG group’s social networking site would break even in 3 years. That’s an eternity in the internet business and thus such a prediction about something that nobody in the world has figured out how to milk, is pretty ambitious to say the least. The Indian arm of Sequoia Capital recently invested in minglebox.com adding to its portfolio that already includes dating portal fropper.com. I’ve checked out all these sites and while they seem interesting enough, I don’t see the need to sign up for more than one or maybe two such services. The other day I was in Bhopal and introduced to a local internet entrepreneur who runs scratchmysoul.com which claims to be the world’s only people mapping site. The project is based on the intellectual property of Raghav Chandra who belongs to one of the most important offline social networks in the country – the Indian Administrative Service!

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“Desis” seem to have gotten the short end of the stick as far as cashing out on the social networking boom in Silicon Valley is concerned. Jawed Karim, whose father is Bangladeshi, was the third, ignored co-founder of YouTube and only got crumbs from the sellout to Google (a mere $64.6 million as against $326 million each, for the other two co-founders). Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg is facing a high profile lawsuit from a group of former Harvard colleagues who claim that he stole their idea. One of them is a young man called Divya Narendra, who reportedly works for a hedge fund these days. In both cases the desis seem to have been the technical whizkids who did most of the backend work while the smooth talkers laughed all the way to the bank. In fact Indians or people of Indian origin are yet to make a big impact on what being called “boom 2.0” in the valley. Possibly the most influential Indian 2.0 in the valley these days is Om Malik who runs the Gigaom.com blogging network. Its core competence? Extensive news, information and analysis of the Web 2.0 phenomenon – circular ain’t it?

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FULL DISCLOSURE: There is a rather large official “Tech 2.0” community on Orkut.com

Written by Abhi 2.0

August 13, 2007 at 1:43 am