It's no secret that Google has had a hard time seeking the "Holy Grail" when it comes to social networking. While rumors swirl as to its strident efforts to compete with the big boys in this space, Facebook is quick to fend off its would-be competition by allegedly stealing Intel from the Big G. Testing the waters with one's of existing social networks only popular in India and Brazil, Google's Orkut is launching a new feature that's thought to be overlooked by others.
According to the network's blog, "the site appeals to our multi-faceted human nature that changes according to what audience we are addressing." Titled, "You're not always the same person. Why should it be any different on the web?" - the intent is basically to group your friends and followers according to common traits and interests. The premise is based on the idea that you act and communicate differently dependent on whether you're addressing your jock team mates, your co-workers or your Mom and Dad's chums.
As this YouTube video points outs, Orkut will now allow you to build separate groups of your friends reflecting how you interact with them in real life.
While this approach differs markedly from the fallout Google Buzz received by trying to make all your friends be friends with each other, how does Orkut's new feature differ from either Facebook or Twitter's "lists" that also groups people according to interest factors? As noted in a ReadWriteWeb report, both of the other networks added their "grouping" functions more as an afterthought, "buried several clicks away, while Orkut's groups are front and center."
Orkut allows users to create 'friend groups' manually as well as automatically, based on how you interact with specific followers - and it will also suggest new friends to add to your groups based on your social graph. You can now also select the privacy level for each content entry you post to the network, choosing between all of your friends, multiple groups or individual groups.
The new feature is certainly more in line as to how we act in the real-world, so I am sure that Facebook and Twitter might consider following suit. But I don't think it is the differentiator that's going to sway users away from other networks. My thought is Google is using its existing networks to test the waters in advance of adding these features to its "new" social network. Having failed so often in the past, I think the search engine giant is not going to come out of the box unless all of its bells and whistles are working at optimum levels and are going to appeal to the widest of audiences!
UPDATE: August 25 - IBN Live - Unfortunate for Google, shortly after I posted this blog, a report was released that noted Orkut was losing ground in its number geographic territory - India! According to comScore, Facebook grabbed the number one ranking in the
social networking category for the first time in July with 20.9 million
visitors, up 179 per cent versus year ago. Orkut registered a growth of
only 16 per cent in the same time period.
The Problem With Social Networks!