Google to close Orkut from September 30, 2014. Launched almost 10 years ago, it is what introduced me to the concept of social networking. So much has changed since then. Now whenever someone says “social networking”, the first thing that comes to mind is either Facebook or Twitter but almost everyone has forgotten Orkut. Now, that Google has announced that Orkut will cease to exist, let’s take a walk down the memory lane, shall we?
Well, hello Orkut!!
Internet was only a few years old in India and people were still getting used to the concept of sending emails instead of voice calling personally or sending letters professionally. I still remember, almost 7 years ago, the conversation I had with my 10th grade class mate.
Sometime in late 2007
Friend: Are you on Orkut.com?
Me: No. What is this Orkut.com?
Friend: It’s a website through which you can stay in touch with friends.
Me: But I can do that through calls or email or even Yahoo Messenger.
Friend: Yes, but this is so much more fun. You can add new, even unknown people in your “friend-list”. You can send messages through scrapbook, that everyone else can also read. *winks* You can post photos and have a profile describing yourself on it. Trust me, it’s really fun!
Me: What’s a scrapbook?
Friend: A scrapbook is like a series of messages which you send to someone who has an Orkut account like yourself. All of us have an Orkut account, how come you don’t? *points to other friends*
Me: Fine, I will make one!
So that was the beginning of my introduction to the world of social media and Orkut was how it started.
This is amazing…
When I signed up with my email ID on Orkut, I was fascinated. It was so interesting! It asked me to update my profile picture, country of origin, my gender, my sexual orientation, my religion, my likes, dislikes, my addictions, if I had children, my build, my best feature, school details, college details, my humor, my fashion sense, even my political views. I had never felt so important in my life or never thought these kind of personal details would be of interest to anyone or anything. But Orkut asked me that and I gladly filled in all details. It was not mandatory to fill those details, but it was just so much fun to do. It made me think about myself and my choices deeper than I had ever thought before. I was in love…
After making the profile, I searched and added friends. Read their profile and came to know a lot of things that I didn’t know about them. I started sending scraps to them, writing testimonials for them, liking and commenting on their photos and activities. I also liked and joined special pages dedicated to topics. I also found out what YouTube is due to Orkut. I was hooked and so was everyone else. Well, at least for a few more months…
Where the hell is everyone?
Somewhere in middle of 2009, I started hearing about this new website called “Facebook”. I did try it instantly, but somehow I found it either a bit boring or complicated to understand than Orkut. Or maybe I was just too tired the day I first tried Facebook. I thought this new site is never going to work. Orkut IS where everyone hangs out. I was wrong. Slowly and gradually, I noticed not many people sign in every day as much as they used to. Fewer people were visiting my profile. Fewer new scraps were appearing in mine and other friends’ scrapbooks. I thought maybe it’s because of exams and I was wrong this time too. They had actually found a new place to hang out. A new place called Facebook.
Hey wait for me, everyone! Sorry Orkut!!
So I decided that I want to stay in touch with all my friends, the way there were staying in touch with each other. I didn’t want to be left out. I loved Orkut, but I hated being alone on it. So I joined Facebook and it got simpler for me to understand it with time. That was a time when a lot of friends were already on Facebook and some were still in Orkut. So I used to sign in at both places and used to spend my time. Even my remaining friends who had stayed back on Orkut abandoned it before I could say “Heya”. After which, I started feeling that signing in on Orkut was a waste of my time and internet and I lost the habit of doing that.
Orkut features that I miss…
- The habit of checking profiles of friends. These days no one gives importance to reading someone’s profile before clicking on “Add Friend”. But reading others’ profiles and updating your own is the kind of fun I miss a lot.
- The background themes that Orkut used to provide. It used to provide more than 60 different kinds of themes. Having my own theme is something that gave me a feeling as if I have truly personalized my account and profile. Of course, technically, having personalized themes for each user might increase the loading time of a website and the uniform look that sites like FB try to bring about is easier on the eyes, but isn’t variety the spice of life?
- The ability to have a theme song for my profile. Yes, I did somehow manage to keep a theme song which would start to play every time someone clicks on my profile. I used to keep songs which would express the mood I am in at a particular time. I also used it to make my friends listen to the latest songs I was “into”. I love music too much and miss it while socializing these days.
- Call me obsessive but I loved to watch who visits my profile. There was a friend I used to have a crush on and every time my profile was visited by the friend, I used to be VERY happy and if I wouldn’t be visited for more than 3 days, I would start thinking the person has lost interest in me.(I was a teenager, what else do you expect!)
- Sending, receiving as well as reading other people’s scraps. Reading a friend’s scrapbook used to give me an idea of the kind of person that friend is, the way he/she talks with pals and the kinds of relationship the friend shares with the people on his friend list. It is a bit difficult to figure that out in other social networking sites.
- Testimonials. They were a kind of appreciative notes that friends would post on each others’ profile. I used to love reading those on other people’s profile, writing those for my friends and receiving one from my friends. These days, there is no such special feature in famous networking sites, using which friends can appreciate each other. Or at least a feature which would stay on their profile. Of course you can write appreciative posts on walls, but walls are temporary and things on walls get forgotten and pushed down by newer posts. But testimonials on profiles used to stay there for a long time. They would make every Orkut user realize why the writer of that testimonial loves them. It made them feel special for who they are, what they are and just the way they are.
Orkut features I won’t miss…
- Picture banners. These were the kinds of picture messages/gifs some people used to post. Most of them used to have “Happy Birthday”, “Good morning” and such goodhearted messages with flowers and sparkles and the sorts. That was a feature I really wished Orkut could have banned. Sending someone a simple “Good morning” is better than trying to burst that person’s eyes with such eye hurting banners, unless you are Gregor Clegane.
- The weird fonts. Some people were able to apply stylish fonts to the text they used including their profile names. At times it made the look and feel of my home page a bit shitty. It used to hurt my eyes really.
The thing is, there is always a first time you do something. It is difficult to forget such a thing as it leaves a lasting impression on you. Orkut introduced me to the amazing world of social networking and it is the first popular social networking site India got. It has and will always have a special place in my heart. It was my first after all, no pun intended. Goodbye, Orkut!