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  • Samantha Simard

Popularity Contest: How Orkut Users Demonstrated Function of Tech and Culture

More likely than not, you have a favorite social media app. Even if you use several different apps on a daily basis, there’s probably one that you go back to more than the others. Take a moment and consider why that might be–is it the sleek design of the interface? The way you’re able to quickly and easily access information? Or maybe you have the ability to chat with friends, shop for products, and play a game, all at the same time? In this blog post, we’re going to look at the reason why an app called Orkut made a huge splash when it launched, and died off with a whimper ten years later.

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What is Orkut?

Orkut was a social networking site that launched in 2004, around the same time as staples such as LinkedIn and Facebook. The original purpose of Orkut was to help users find communities of like-minded people through keyword search, similar to many other social networking sites. At the time of its shutdown in 2014, 90% of the page views on Orkut were attributed to users in Brazil, with the app being wildly popular in the South American country.

Most Orkut users were interested in finding classmates and friends, since the app was most popular among technology workers and students. At its peak popularity in 2012, Orkut had 30 million active users. Part of its appeal may have been due to the fact that Orkut was founded by a former Google employee, Orkut Büyükkökten, and that it was an invitation-only site. If you were able to access Orkut, you were well-connected in the tech world.

What Was Orkut’s Big Selling Point, and Why Did Brazil Love It?

First and foremost, Orkut had a clean yet sophisticated user interface, which made it easy to navigate, and there was a rating system that allowed connected users to label each other as sexy, cool, trustworthy, etc. Privacy concerns were put first and foremost by its security team, and it even had a feature that allowed users to recommend products and services through the communities they joined.

Brazil loved Orkut because the country is an extremely strong market for online retailers, and has a high affinity for digital and social media. Outdoor advertising is banned in Brazil, which means online marketing is the best way to reach potential customers. Most social media users in Brazil have a positive attitude toward shopping via social media, so the recommendation feature Orkut boasted caused its popularity to grow quickly.

The Bottom Line

Orkut’s success can be attributed directly to the market in which it operated, but that was also what caused its downfall. The Brazilian people propelled Orkut’s popularity skyward, but the type of advertising to which they were most responsive–online video–was hard to share through Orkut. Several functionality issues led Orkut to stop meeting the needs of its user base, which ultimately meant the site lost their interest and was forced to shut down. This is a great example of the power that social media creators wield, and how apps can go from the top of the charts to the bottom of the barrel practically overnight.

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