There was a spam doing the rounds recently of how Mr Orkut Buyukkokten, the coder from Stanford was making money at the speed of light. The mail stated that whenever you send a friend reqest, scrap, add a person as a fan, etc etc Mr. Orkut makes money. The objective of this post is not to quantify the cash that Orkut is making. (Some say he may be the richest man on the planet in a few years. Ironically his office is in the 'Gates' building.) The objective here is to celebrate the innovation that is orkut.
Orkut.com is a website that helps you to get in touch with other people. It is much more effective than other sites since to become a member of the network you need to get an invite from an existing member of the network. Thus making it difficult for bots to enter. The website helps people stay in touch, meet old friends, and last of all make new friends. When one becomes a member, you fill up a e-form that takes a lot of data like hobbies, interests, demographics, etc.
So whats so great? Well since the network is 'trusted' because of the invite barrier, you get more reliable people and hence reliable data. As I write this, orkut has an estimated 20 million strong membership and believe me its addictive. Who would not like to get in touch with old friends. Its one of the most difficult things to let go when you change locations. So its safe to assume that a huge percentage, somewhere around 70-80% will be active. That makes 16 million people chatting up, flirting, and most important giving valuable information about themselves. Which marketer would not give her / his left b00b / b0ll for such information. At the same time the members enjoy, they have come in touch with their long lost friends. Its a win-win situation. Which is what makes orkut such a great innovation. I wouldn't be sursprised if Mr. Buyukkokten becomes the richest man on the planet or is getting those big bucks. He might be selling the data to Market Research firms. (Would have loved to put the mail here too, but sadly I dont have a copy. Anyone reading this please mail it to me at xcesstorque [at] yahoo [dot] com.)
However there is a caveat. Orkut for all its 20 million members is mainly popular in India, Pakistan and Brazil. But considering the way it is spreading it will take little time to expand into emerging markets like South East Asia, Eastern Europe, and the other parts of South America & Latin America. Also, orkut is popular among the age group of 15 - 30. Yes it could take a quite a few years before the current crowd ages and we have representation from all age groups. People might also argue that only the internet savvy are profiled. Ah well yes .. thats a valid point. I guess customer profiling can be done only for this section of society. However in the future almost everything will be online. Almost all middle class kids today have email ids and orkut is growing at a frentic speed. Since I joined orkut (somewhere around October 2005) till date, membership has grown from some 6-8 million to the 20 million odd members in just 6-7 months.
So marketers here lies your potential goldmine. All your fundas of segmenting, targeting, positioning, etc can be got in a jiffy. The worlds largest database of what customers want! Phew and to think it all happened because a geek mixed his interests of social networking and coding.
PS: While researching for this post, I came across a link as to why Google bought orkut. Read it, its interesting!
My orkut profile is here.