Orkut founder launches Hello social network: Do we really need another one?
Long before Facebook came on to the scene, there was one social network that was a rage among many Indians – Orkut. This network was eventually bought by Google, and then promptly put to rest in October 2014. At its peak, Orkut had around 300 million users. But its namesake founder Orkut Büyükkökten is not done with social networks just yet.
Büyükkökten has now launched a new social network called Hello which focusses on your hobbies, obsessions and passions and lets you choose personas to show your interest areas. These personas can be slotted under various categories such as clubber, geek, photographer, traveller and so on.
What’s Hello about?
According to the About page on Hello.com, “After witnessing the evolution of social networking over the past 16 years, Orkut (Büyükkökten) was inspired to help bring people together around their common interests – a vision that changes how the world does social.” Orkut calls Hello as a social network built on loves and not likes. “I designed Hello to help you connect with people who share your passions,” he says on his blog. He calls Hello as the successor of Orkut.
Hello will be available on Android as well as iOS app stores. It is currently available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Italy, France and Brazil. Germany, Mexico and India are expected to get the app later this month.
After signing in, you are expected to select five personas based on your interest areas from among the 100s on offer. These personas define your passions and you can later swap one for another if you so want. Whatever you post, on Hello, goes to one of these five personas and you can also browse through what others have posted in a particular persona. These postings are called ‘Jots’. Just like Facebook’s news feed, Hello uses algorithms to ensure you get the right content on your persona feed as well as potential people suggestions based on your personas.
Status updates in Hello can only be in the form of images – no text updates are allowed. Photographs with filters have to be added, which doesn’t seem to be much different from Instagram or Snapchat. Video is not supported at the moment.
Another twist that Hello has added to the mix is gamification. You get karma rewards based on your posts or interactions you have created or liked (kind of like Reddit), gifts you have sent, number of days you have been active on the network. As you earn points, you level up like in a game.
Based on the interactions you generate, there will be Leaderboards for each persona. You can reach milestones and unlock rewards.
Do we really need another social network?
All good, but it begs a question – do we really need one more social network?
Orkut, for all its ‘fraandship requests’ and other flaws, was quite an interesting social network. One of the best things about Orkut was its Communities, where you had almost Reddit-style discussion threads, that was till Reddit came on to the scene a year later.
Back then, Facebook was just about getting started and was yet to make a mark in India. Since Facebook, we have had a steady stream of social networking sites sprouting up every few years – Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Musical.ly and many more. Google launched Google+ which has undergone many iterations, with Communities and Collections being its current focus. Google’s owned Orkut as well till it shut it down in 2014. Also Google’s other attempts at social networks such as Buzz and Wave, died a premature death.
Let’s face it – Facebook rules this space. And it has been doing so for years, with its 1.7 billion users. With image sharing social network Instagram also in its stable Facebook has another billion users in its fold. Even a giant such as Google hasn’t managed to cause any dent in this market. Snapchat is emerging as the hot new app in the social media space. Facebook’s (and now, Instagram’s) blatant ripping off of Snapchat’s features, makes it evident that Snapchat is the next big thing on the social network radar. And something, Facebook is clearly insecure about.
If having a social network around your passions was a unique proposition, Google+ should already be declared a winner as it’s Communities feature has been around since many years. Reddit offers enough gamification to have its core user base of around 250 million plus active users and close to 850,000 plus subreddits and 11,464 communities active. Pinterest, a social network based around images, has around 100 million monthly users.
Sticking to a new platform
We all love trying out new social networks, but for all practical purposes, Facebook is the only social network which has the stickiness quotient. Ok, we’ll add Snapchat to that list now as well. But for many other social networks out there, it’s a tough fight to have users engaged.
Hello sounds like an interesting proposition, but that whole ‘social network around common interests’ trope has been tried before, by established players, and hasn’t really caused any disruption. Barring Snapchat, there isn’t any other app that has really questioned the status quo around Facebook.
Unless Hello has any such ambitions, I feel it will be just another social network which will get a lot of interest at launch, but will eventually taper and people will switch back to their old networks.