Indian Women: Avoid Orkut, Switch to Facebook

One of the most fre­quent­ly googled post on this blog is Indi­an Women: Beware of Orkut. They use many dif­fer­ent key­words to land on that post: pho­to mis­use on Orkut, indi­an women abuse orkut, and so on. Some­times, Orku­tians post a link to my arti­cle while ‘scrap­ping’ their friends in Orkut, and I get sev­er­al hits from with­in Orkut itself. OrkutYouthIcon

Well, we all know how Orkut is being mis­used, so why do Indi­ans, espe­cial­ly women and girls, stick with it when there are bet­ter alter­na­tives avail­able? Face­book for exam­ple, offers some of the best pri­va­cy fea­tures among all the social net­work­ing sites. You can choose who can see your pro­file and what infor­ma­tion can or can­not be searched. You can pick and choose select parts of your pro­file for a select group of friends. You can con­trol what infor­ma­tion is shared when you mes­sage or send a friend request.

If one is famil­iar with Facebook’s pri­va­cy fea­tures, one will feel naked in Orkut. So why do Indi­an girls and women still stick to Orkut? Bol­ly­wood stars have already start­ed migrat­ing in droves from Orkut to Face­book. Will their fans and the Indi­an pub­lic fol­low?

Here are some points to pon­der:

1. ‘Crit­i­cal mass’ is a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor in such com­mu­ni­ties. Most peo­ple will join what most oth­ers have already joined, pro­pelling the #1 even high­er in num­bers. There are over 7 mil­lion Indi­an Orkut vis­i­tors in July 2007, com­pared to 0.78 mil­lion for Face­book. Orkut is MTV’s Youth Icon 2007. Anoth­er fac­tor of course, is gen­er­al knowl­edge and aware­ness of the Inter­net and oth­er alter­na­tives.

Facebook2. As per Agen­cy­faqs cit­ing Com­Score: “Face­book grew phe­nom­e­nal­ly in India between April and June 2007, attract­ing an addi­tion­al 323,000 unique vis­i­tors. The pri­va­cy issue, espe­cial­ly for women users, is reflect­ed in the bet­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tion they have on Face­book. While 40.7 per cent of unique vis­i­tors from India on Face­book are women, they con­sti­tute 28 per cent in Orkut.” So, at least some Indi­an women are already get­ting wis­er!

3. How­ev­er strong pri­va­cy fea­tures you intro­duce in a social net­work­ing plat­form, it can­not pro­tect you always. Like they say, if you make some­thing idiot-proof, some­one will invent a bet­ter idiot!

4. More intrigu­ing­ly, I won­der if the lack of pri­va­cy fea­tures in Orkut are unique­ly tempt­ing for the Indi­an youth. Is our repres­sive social cul­ture dri­ving our youth to sneak and peek into each other’s Orkut pro­files instead? Our present social con­text bans dat­ing. Does Orkut pro­vide a safe way to get to know some more infor­ma­tion about that heart­throb in your col­lege? Does it help screen that boy or girl your par­ents intro­duced to you on your own terms and on your own plat­form, away from your par­ents scruti­ny?

If that is indeed the case, then net­works like Face­book will nev­er gain crit­i­cal vol­ume in India. What do you think?

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  • I think YES… I have already switched to Face­book… but I dont know the rea­son why… I did­nt have any pri­va­cy con­cerns and I d have been more than hap­py to receive “Hi Would you like to be my friend” kind of scraps from girls 😉 Any­way, Face­book is def­i­nite­ly eas­i­er to use and unlike Orkut, its not non-pink ambi­ence is real­ly sooth­ing for my eyes.

  • I have heard a lot of good things about Face­book. But as I hard­ly use orkut, although I have a pro­file there, haven’t thought of switch­ing. But I guess peo­ple must not be switch­ing due to force of habit, per­haps.

  • Oemar/Nita: Yes, Face­book is indeed better…and you may be right, it may be just habit. But aren’t the threats to pri­va­cy and the increas­ing num­ber of abuse cas­es alarm­ing enough to cause a switch?

  • I think if a site gets pop­u­lar abuse cas­es increase. at least thats my feel­ing. more peo­ple use it and so do more cranks!

  • Nita: That’s right too. Just like the num­ber of secu­ri­ty hacks for a brows­er or an oper­at­ing sys­tem depend on how pop­u­lar it is! But Facebook’s pri­va­cy fea­tures are much more sol­id than Orkut’s so even if it becomes very pop­u­lar, I don’t think it can be abused to the same extent as Orkut.

  • Pingback: Orkut or Facebook? at Blogbharti()

  • For starters, I have heard girls com­plain­ing about the com­plex­i­ty of face­book and the pow­er it gives you some­times strikes down the user. So I guess girls are more com­fort­able with Orkut. besides I think it has to be a social move because you can’t move ALONE, you got­ta have your con­tacts mov­ing with you too.

  • I would agree with Kapil to some extent. You have to move your net­work, not just you alone. We all know that mak­ing net­work was a long process on Orkut, search­ing for friends and all that… I dont think every­one is com­fort­able with going through that process again on face­book. Not say­ing that it wont hap­pen, but very grad­u­al­ly. But face­book is not com­plex at all, just got­ta get used to it.

  • Kapil/Oemar: one point you’re mak­ing is what I’m already say­ing in #1 in my post: it seems improb­a­ble that such a large, estab­lished Orkut base will move to a dif­fer­ent net­work! Kapil’s point regard­ing usabil­i­ty is inter­est­ing: maybe the non-net-friend­ly Indi­ans are not used to being pow­er users. That can be one more fac­tor in restrict­ing Facebook’s rise and retain­ing Orkut’s pop­u­lar­i­ty.

  • I don’t know about India, but every­one I know in Pak­istan has switched to Face­book. There are already arti­cles in news­pa­pers call­ing face­book the “new orkut”. When that hap­pens, and know­ing that when orkut was pop­u­lar arti­cles about it as a social net­work­ing site were ram­pant, I get the feel­ing more than just my friends have migrat­ed.

  • She­faly

    Con­sid­er­ing this post is from end-August, I am sure you have changed your mind about Facebook’s pri­va­cy prac­tices being the best-in-class.

    The site is now open to Google and oth­er pub­lic search­es
    (see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6980454.stm).

    Not just that there are enough fools on Face­book that if a tena­cious iden­ti­ty steal­er wish­es to make a tonne of mon­ey, he/ she can browse FB for an hour and extract enough mate­r­i­al to screw up a few hun­dred lives.

    Pri­va­cy and secu­ri­ty are only as good as the peo­ple using the sys­tem; the weak­est links are suf­fi­cient to bring the whole thing down. I do not believe for a sec­ond that those who did not learn to remain ‘safe’ on Orkut etc will ben­e­fit sim­ply from switch­ing their net­work alle­giance. This could also lull them into a false sense of secu­ri­ty which is a worse out­come.

  • Strayan­gel: Thanks for the update from Pak­istan. It is inter­est­ing — India is men­tioned very fre­quent­ly in news relat­ed to Orkut, but not Pak­istan…

    She­faly: You are bang-on-tar­get: I just felt it so iron­i­cal that Face­book did this just a few days after my post!

    I do believe that the ‘default’ set­tings are a crit­i­cal fac­tor in deter­min­ing whether sim­ply switch­ing can help or not. If Facebook’s or any oth­er site’s default options were safer, it can help. Because most of the mil­lions of users are not com­put­er-savvy, they sim­ply go with the default set­tings. At this point, a com­par­i­son of the weak­est links between the two sites becomes a com­par­i­son between the default set­tings.

    I still observe that Facebook’s pri­va­cy set­tings are much more gran­u­lar than Orkut, how­ev­er their open­ing up the site to pub­lic search­es makes a mock­ery of all that gran­u­lar­i­ty, how­ev­er min­i­mal the pub­lic search infor­ma­tion may be.

  • hi he is my site

  • Face­book sucks..Orkut rocks all the way. And well, most girls I know think the same way too.

    Any­way, orkut has wok­en up to the chal­lenge posed by FB and now offers ter­rif­ic pri­va­cy options. And, FB with its recent mishap with Bea­con just proved that it is not all that great at pri­va­cy too. So, my request: Let’s all stay with orkut..it’s amaz­ing..

  • Now face­book is wide­ly patron­aged among the Indi­an women. Orkut is left over owing to its naked­ness.