Orkut's login screen
Type of site
|Social networking service|
|Available in||Multilingual (45)|
|Founded||January 24, 2004|
|Dissolved||September 30, 2014|
|Slogan(s)||Orkut you can sign in!|
|Alexa rank||7,018 (September 2014)|
Orkut was a social networking website owned and operated by Google. The service was designed to help users meet new and old friends and maintain existing relationships. The website was named after its creator, Google employee Orkut Büyükkökten.
On June 30, 2014, Google announced it would be closing Orkut on September 30, 2014. No new accounts could be created starting from July 2014. Users can download their profile archive by Google Takeout.
Orkut was one of the most visited websites in India and Brazil in 2008. In 2008 Google announced that Orkut would be fully managed and operated in Brazil, by Google Brazil, in the city of Belo Horizonte. This was decided due to the large Brazilian user base and growth of legal issues.
Orkut had a feature that allowed users choose and change Themes. Users could change their interface from a wide range of colorful themes in the library. Themes were only available in Brazil and India.
Each member can become a fan of any of the friends in their list and can also evaluate whether their friend is "Trustworthy", "Cool", "Sexy" on a scale of 1 to 3 (marked by icons) and this is aggregated in terms of a percentage. Unlike Facebook, where a member can view profile details of people only on their network, Orkut allows anyone to visit anyone's profile, unless a potential visitor is on your "Ignore List" (this feature has been recently changed so that users can choose between showing their profile to all networks or specified ones). Importantly, each member can also customize their profile preferences and can restrict information that appears on their profile from their friends and/or others (not on the friends list). Another feature is that any member can add any other member on Orkut to his/her "Crush List" and both of them will be informed only when both parties have added each other to their "Crush List".
When a user logs in, they see the people in their friends list in the order of their logging into the site, the first person being the latest one to do so. Orkut's competitors are other social networking sites including Myspace and Facebook. Ning is a more direct competitor, as they allow creation of social networks which are similar to Orkut's communities.
An Orkut user can also add videos to their profile from either YouTube or Google Video with the additional option of creating either restricted or unrestricted polls for polling a community of users. There is an option to integrate GTalk (An instant messenger from Google) with Orkut enabling chatting and file sharing. Currently GTalk has been integrated in Orkut – users can directly chat from their Orkut page. Similar to Facebook, users may also use a "like" button to share interests with friends.
Orkut was quietly launched on January 22, 2004 by Google. Orkut Büyükkökten, a Turkish software engineer, developed it as an independent project while working at Google. While previously working for Affinity Engines, he had developed a similar system, InCircle, intended for use by university alumni groups. In late June 2004, Affinity Engines filed suit against Google, claiming that Büyükkökten and Google had based Orkut on InCircle code. The allegation is based on the presence of 9 identical bugs in Orkut that also existed in InCircles.
On August 25, 2007, Orkut announced a redesign and the new UI contained round corners and soft colors, including small logotype at upper left corner; this redesign was announced on the official Orkut Blog. By August 30, 2007, most users on Orkut could see changes on their profile pages as per the new redesign. On August 31, 2007, Orkut announced its new features including improvements to the way you view your friends, 9 rather than 8 of your friends displayed on your homepage and profile page and basic links to your friends' content right under their profile picture as you browse through their different pages. It also announced the initial release of Orkut in 6 new languages: Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Kannada and Telugu. Profile editing can take place by clicking the settings button under the user profile photo (or alternatively, clicking the blue settings link at the top of any page). On September 4, 2007, Orkut announced another new feature. user would be able to see an "Updates from your friends" box on the homepage, where it's possible to get real-time updates when friends make changes to their profiles, photos and videos. Moreover, in case someone wants to keep some things on their profile private, Orkut has added an easy opt-out button on the settings page. Scraps were also HTML-enabled letting users post videos or pictures. On November 8, 2007, Orkut greeted its Indian users Happy Diwali by allowing them to change their Orkut look to a Diwali-flavored reddish theme. On April Fools' Day 2008, Orkut temporarily changed its name on its webpage to yogurt, apparently as a prank. On June 2, 2008, Orkut has launched its theming engine with a small set of default themes. Photo tagging also was available.
Second redesign: New Orkut
On October 27, 2009, Orkut released their 2nd redesigned version It was available to very few users at first. These users were able to send invites to their Orkut friends to join this new version. The new version uses Google Web Toolkit (GWT) and thus makes extensive use of AJAX in the user interface. However, the users of the new version of Orkut can switch back to the older version by clicking the "Older Version" link near the top right corner of the page.
Google stated the new Orkut is faster, simpler, and more customizable. More particular features includes video chat, promotions and easy navigation.
The look is completely new, erasing any traces of past designs. User interface and workflow are also drastically changed. As part of "more customizable", Orkut added many different colours for your profile. The Themes were removed and an Orkut badge is visible for those who haven't changed to the new Orkut. The new logo also has the word "My" in it, as in My Orkut. Mouse over to logo scrolls out list of 4 most frequently used links. Vertical scroll bars have been added in the friend and community list in the home page to allow viewing all friends/communities from the home page itself. In the home page, the recent visitor's list now displays six most recent visitor's profile image as small clickable icons. Orkut allows users to sign in with their Google Mail, or Gmail, credentials.
Messages Black Hole
Before the introduction of the New Orkut, users had two options to message friends: via the scrapbook (equivalent to the Facebook wall) or by sending a private message. Since the New Orkut introduced a privacy control for scraps posted to the scrapbook, the messages system was disabled in this version, but not for those still using the old version. This created a strange situation in which messages sent by a user of the old version to someone using the New Orkut go completely unnoticed by its recipient (the New Orkut does not inform the user of these lost messages, that can only be read if he/she switches back to the old version).
As with any online social networking community, a number of fake and cloned profiles exist on Orkut. Due to the large number of users and the deactivation of the jail system, the profiles were often left unremoved or, when removed, recreated easily.
In 2005, various cases of racism were brought to police attention and reported on in the Brazilian media. In 2006, a judicial measure was opened by the Brazil federal justice denouncing a 20-year-old student accused of racism against those of Black African ancestry and spreading defamatory content on Orkut. Brazilian Federal Justice subpoenaed Google on March 2006 to explain the crimes that had occurred in Orkut.
In February 2011, there was controversy revolving around the use of Orkut by various hate groups. Several hate communities focusing on racism, Nazism and white supremacy have been deleted due to guideline violation. Anti-national, and anti-ethnic hate groups had also been spotted. An Indian court had issued notices to Google on some of the groups. The Mumbai Police were seeking a ban on Orkut after objections were raised by political groups. Groups denigrating various political leaders and celebrities have also emerged.
Orkut had a Report Abuse feature available for all communities. Orkut communities can be reported if they contain hateful/violent content.
Orkut was very popular in Iran, but the website is now blocked by the government. According to official reports, this is due to national security issues, and Islamic ethical issues about dating and match-making. To get around this block, sites such as orkutproxy.com (now defunct) were made for Iranian users. Other websites such as Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups have communities dedicated to receiving updates on the newest location of Iran's Orkut proxy. At one time it was possible to bypass governmental blockage of Orkut, but the site has closed its HTTPS pages on all anonymous proxies. Now it is almost impossible for ordinary users to visit this site inside Iran.
Many other sites have been published in Iran since Orkut's blockage, using the same social-networking model – examples include MyPardis, Cloob and Bahaneh.
In the United Arab Emirates
In August 2006, the United Arab Emirates followed the footsteps of Iran in blocking the site. This block was subsequently removed in October 2006. On July 3, 2007, Gulf News revisited the issue, publishing complaints from members of the public against Orkut communities like "Dubai Sex", and officially bringing the complaints to the attention of the state telecom monopoly Etisalat. By July 4, 2007, Etisalat had placed a renewed ban on the site, which remains in effect despite Google's promise to negotiate the ban with the UAE.
In Saudi Arabia
Earlier in Orkut it was possible for anybody to view anyone's pictures, videos as well as scraps, but people started misusing the photos and videos and placing them on the Internet with fake details. Many of them were vulgar, especially pictures of women. Moreover, the features like scraps, videos, photo albums, and testimonials were public. Orkut developers later introduced another privacy update that allow users to restrict viewing of their albums to certain number of friends, as well as selected e-mail contacts. The user can limit visibility of her/his profile to a certain region or group of regions (known as a "network"); in this case outside of these regions no user information is available.
Security and safety
In December 2007, hundreds of thousands of users' accounts were affected, using XSS vulnerability and a worm. A user's account was affected when the user simply read a particular scrap containing an embed which caused the user to automatically become a part of a community on the site, without approval. The affected user's account was then used to send this scrap to everyone present in the user's friend list thereby creating a huge influx of people into said community.
On June 19, 2006, FaceTime Security Labs' security researchers Christopher Boyd and Wayne Porter discovered a worm, dubbed MW.Orc. The worm steals users' banking details, usernames and passwords by propagating through Orkut. The attack was triggered as users launched an executable file disguised as a JPEG file. The initial executable file that causes the infection installs two additional files on the user's computer. These files then e-mail banking details and passwords to the worm's anonymous creator when infected users click on the "My Computer" icon. The infection spreads automatically by posting a URL in another user's Orkut Scrapbook, a guestbook where visitors can leave comments visible on the user's page. This link lures visitors with a message in Portuguese, falsely claiming to offer additional photos. The message text that carries an infection link can vary from case to case. In addition to stealing personal information, the malware can also enable a remote user to control the PC and make it part of a botnet, a network of infected PCs. The botnet in this case uses an infected PC's bandwidth to distribute large, unlicensed movie files, potentially slowing down a user's connection speed.
The initial executable file (Minhasfotos.exe) creates two additional files when activated, winlogon_.jpg and wzip32.exe (located in the System32 Folder). When the user clicks the "My Computer" icon, a mail is sent containing their personal data. In addition, they may be added to an XDCC Botnet (used for file sharing), and the infection link may be sent to other users that they know in the Orkut network. The infection can be spread manually, but also has the ability to send "back dated" infection links to people in the "friends list" of the infected user. According to statements made by Google, as noted in Facetime's Greynets Blog, the company had implemented a temporary fix for the dangerous worm.
Session management and authentication
On June 22, 2007 Susam Pal and Vipul Agarwal published a security advisory on Orkut vulnerabilities related to authentication issues. The vulnerabilities are considered very dangerous in cybercafes, or in the case of man-in-the-middle attack as they can lead to session hijacking and misuse of legitimate accounts. The vulnerabilities are not known to be fixed yet and therefore pose threat to the Orkut users.
A week later, on June 29, 2007 Susam Pal published another security advisory which described how the Orkut authentication issue can be exploited to hijack Google and Gmail sessions and misuse the compromised account of a legitimate user under certain conditions.
Joseph Hick performed an experiment on the basis of the advisories published by Susam Pal, to find out how long a session remains alive even after a user logs out. His experiment confirmed that the sessions remain alive for 14 days after the user has logged out. It implies that a hijacked session can be used for 14 days by the hijacker because logging out does not kill the session.
On October 10, 2006, the Bombay High Court's Aurangabad bench served a notice on Google for allowing a hate campaign against India. This referred to a community on Orkut called 'We Hate India', which initially carried a picture of an Indian flag being burned and some anti-India content. The High Court order was issued in response to a public-interest petition filed by an Aurangabad advocate. Google had six weeks to respond. Even before the petition was filed, many Orkut users had noticed this community and were mailing or otherwise messaging their contacts on Orkut to report the community as bogus to Google, which could result in its removal. The community has now been deleted but has spawned several 'We hate those who hate India' communities. Prior to the 60th Independence Day of India, Orkut's main page was revamped. The section which usually displayed a collage of photos of various people, showed a stylized Orkut logo. The word Orkut was written in Devanagari script and was coloured in Indian national colours. Clicking on the logo redirects to a post by the Orkut India ProductManager, Manu Rekhi, on the Orkut internal blog. There has also been some media outcry against Orkut after a couple of youngsters were apparently lured by fake profiles on the site and later murdered.
On November 24, 2006, Bombay High Court asked the state government to file its reply in connection with a petition demanding a ban on social networking site, Orkut, for hosting an anti-Shivaji Web community.
In 2007, the Pune rural police cracked a rave party filled with narcotics. The accused have been charged under anti-narcotic laws, the (Indian) Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropics Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS). Besides the NDPS, according to some media reports, the police were deliberating on the issue of charging the accused under the (Indian) Information Technology Act, 2000 perhaps because Orkut was believed to be a mode of communication for drug abuses of this kind.
On August 22, 2006, Brazilian Federal Judge José Marcos Lunardelli ordered Google to release by September 28 Orkut user’s information of a list of about twenty-four Brazilian nationals, believed to be using Orkut to sell drugs and to be involved in child pornography. The judge ordered Google to pay $23,000 per day in fines until the information is turned over to the Brazilian government. According to the Brazilian government, the information would also be used to identify individuals who are spreading child pornography and hate speech. As of September 27, 2006 Google has stated that it will not release the information, on the grounds that the requested information is on Google servers in the U.S. and not Google servers in Brazil, and is therefore not subject to Brazilian laws.
On June 30, 2014, Google announced that Orkut would be shutting down completely on September 30, 2014. Users could export their photo albums before the final shutdown date. Orkut profiles, scraps, testimonials, and community posts can still be exported until September 2016. Google engineering director Paulo Golgher said in a blog post: "Over the past decade, Facebook,YouTube, Blogger and Google+ have taken off, with communities springing up in every corner of the world. Because the growth of these communities has outpaced Orkut's growth, we've decided to bid Orkut farewell." Orkut was the result of a 20 percent project in which Google workers got to spend a fifth of their time on ideas not necessarily related to their job responsibilities. However, the public contents of all public communities were archived by Google, and are available permanently for consulting online in the Orkut Community Archive (although editing is no longer possible).
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