If I were Google, I would be unhappy about my name showing up at the bottom of pages on the Orkut social networking site. Not because it is a public failure: it seems as if the entire nation of Brazil is using it at once. No, because it says: “we can’t handle large numbers of users.” This is not a good message to send.
I don’t know what social networking sites are good for, but I’m betting that they constitute the forerunner of something that will be useful. Right now, I think their most effective use is as an alternative way of keeping up an address book. Of course, for such a use to be effective, they would have to be interoperable with other systems. I’m sure social networking services will be as quick to interconnect as instant messaging services have been.
My most recent ire comes of making invites to everyone in my small class, and apparently having none of them go out via email. That, and the continuing sluggishness of the system, makes me wonder why Google would even want its name on the thing. My thought is do it right or don’t do it at all. “Right” doesn’t have to mean perfect, but it does mean working. And it’s too bad, because Orkut could mean the stickiness that Google so desperately covets. I am quitting Orkut (well, you can’t quit, but ignoring), but that is difficult to do, given that a large chunk of my social network is there. It’s like moving from a neighborhood, only more so.
I really do think that FOAF or something FOAFlike is the only way to go, but so far, there is neither the killer app nor the user mass needed to make that move forward.