Monday 25 January 2021
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Orkut is coming back, renamed as Hello

After struggling to survive bad press, wherein prominent journalists wrote in their columns in newspapers and said on programmes in prime-time television that the medium had turned into a tool for impersonation, harassment and cyberstalking towards the end of the 2000s, Orkut had finally breathed its last on 30 June 2014

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Politics India Orkut is coming back, renamed as Hello

New Delhi: Google’s social networking site Orkut, which was a sensation in the last decade, before Facebook replaced it as the most popular social medium, is coming back. Its new name will be Hello.

After struggling to survive bad press, wherein prominent journalists wrote in their columns in newspapers and said on programmes in prime-time television that the medium had turned into a tool for impersonation, harassment and cyberstalking towards the end of the 2000s, Orkut had finally breathed its last on 30 June 2014. Before shutting down, Orkut had, of course, notified its users that they could save archives of their writings in the medium on their computers.

It’s the same person who had made Orkut in 2004 who is coming up with Hello: Orkut Büyükkökten, a Turkish software engineer.

Without naming Facebook, Büyükkökten hit out at the competition. He said, “If you look at the social media today, it has increased the distance rather than bringing people closer. Rather than sharing anything, it is being used for broadcast. We have a fresh start. Hello has been developed according to the communities of similar interest. Users of similar interest can join each other. This will be a true engagement.”

Büyükkökten added, through Hello, he wanted to provide a positive, meaningful and true connection. He is now the CEO of San Francisco-based Hello Network Inc.

Hello is running successfully in Brazil already. Orkut, too, had been more successful in Brazil and the United States (where it competed with MySpace), with Indian users ranking third in volumes.

Hello will be launched in India soon. Its beta version for testing is already available in the country, downloadable from Google Play Store as well as Apple App Store.

In the wake of the data breach scandal Facebook is smarting from due to its association with dubious British firm Cambridge Analytica and perhaps some Russian spying agencies, industry observers believe this is a good time for another social medium.

However, “data privacy was an issue with Orkut as well,” observed a software engineer under the condition of anonymity, adding, “Hello has to address the issues that Orkut was callous about.”

“The blocking feature of Facebook is more effective than that of Twitter,” said a member of the cyber cell of a national party. He added that trolling has largely been a menace on Twitter as the defender of a political position cannot explain his point fully within the space constraint.

Adding that the cyber guys of at least four political parties have expertise in creating bots and fake profiles numbering thousands and even lakhs to target issues or personalities, the man in his late 20s added that the BJP, INC, AAP and CPI(M) were keenly awaiting the arrival of Hello to explore how easy impersonation, spamming and phishing would be in the new medium.

A peer from another party said the cyber cell he is a part of is not excited about Hello. Notwithstanding Facebook’s loss of face, “it is not easy to pull away millions from an existing network,” he said. “We would be interested in the new medium only after it has gathered a critical mass of users,” he said.

Indians who have tested the app averaged 320 minutes every month on it. Interestingly, politics was not among their top choices. They spent more time on sports, entertainment, devotion and technology.

A beta tester informed Sirf News that rich text and sorting of conversations on the basis of topics — two features that are absent in Twitter, and present only in the notes of Facebook but were present everywhere in Orkut — have been incorporated in Hello, too.

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Surajit Dasgupta
Surajit Dasgupta
The founder of Sirf News has been a science correspondent in The Statesman, senior editor in The Pioneer, special correspondent in Money Life and columnist in various newspapers and magazines, writing in English as well as Hindi. He was the national affairs editor of Swarajya, 2014-16. He worked with Hindusthan Samachar in 2017. He was the first chief editor of Sirf News and is now back at the helm after a stint as the desk head of MyNation of the Asianet group. He is a mathematician by training with interests in academic pursuits of science, linguistics and history. He advocates individual liberty and a free market in a manner that is politically feasible. His hobbies include Hindi film music and classical poetry in Bengali, English, French, Hindi and Urdu.

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