How Orkut Works

Challenges of Orkut

Like its benefits, some of orkut's challenges are similar to other social network sites. Early on, orkut addressed one of these challenges, user authenticity, with its testimonials feature. Your testimonials are posts by your friends describing what they think of you. Others users can read your testimonials to determine if they trust you and want to accept your friend request. Testimonials at orkut make it more difficult for users to mislead others with their profile details, reducing the potential for stalkers and cyber predators.

Despite the testimonial feature, user authenticity on orkut was still questionable while invitations were a hot commodity. Until orkut removed its invitation requirement, some current users put invitations up for auction on eBay while prospective users posted everywhere online hoping to find such a coveted token. In July 2005, blogger Alvaro Antunes reported that he had obtained one such invitation from a person he didn't know, and described his experience feeling as if people were adding him as a friend without any genuine interest in friendship [source: Antunes].

Perhaps orkut's biggest challenge has been the legal battles associated with the site in both Brazil and India. In 2005, Brazilian authorities used phone tapping to uncover a drug ring, and monitored their use of orkut communities to set up deals to sell ecstasy and marijuana. A year later, Brazilian prosecutors linked illegal pornographic and racist materials to orkut communities, with a judge ordering the Google unit to provide secure account information about suspected orkut users [source: Nicaretta]. Also in 2006, Google was held responsible for anti-India sentiments posted at orkut, and the company worked to resolve the issue even before receiving a formal notice from Indian authorities [source: Mills].

In each legal case, Google has carefully addressed each subpoena for search request data and private user information. Google has removed orkut communities and users in violation of its terms of service, and added a "Keep orkut Beautiful" page describing its dedication to cooperate with legal authorities and to keep the site "fun and clean." However, there have been some setbacks. In 2009, when a 19-year-old blogger in India created a community to speak out against the political party Shiv Sena, orkut was cited as the guilty Web site, but the blogger himself, not Google, was cited as the responsible party in the legal case [source: Mahapatra].

Google has continued to make improvements to orkut in order to keep it competitive, safe, and fun to use. Today, it's a secure, well-established site backed by a reputable company. If Google remains committed to maintaining and improving the site, and promoting it in growing online markets, orkut will continue its world-wide success.

For more on social networking Web sites and related topics, see the next page.

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