Orkut is a social networking website that is owned and operated by Google Inc. The service is designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships. The website is named after its creator, Google employee Orkut Büyükkökten. Although Orkut is less popular in the United States than competitors Facebook and MySpace, it is one of the most visited websites in India and Brazil. As of April 2010, 48.0% of Orkut's users are from Brazil, followed by India with 39.2% and United States with 2.2%. Recently though, due to advent of other social networking sites, the usage of orkut has decreased.
Originally hosted in California, in August 2008 Google announced that Orkut would be fully managed and operated in Brazil, by Google Brazil, in the city ofBelo Horizonte. This was decided due to the large Brazilian user base and growth of legal issues.
As of June 2011, Alexa traffic ranked orkut.com 96th and orkut.com.br 94th in the world; the website currently has more than 100 million active users worldwide. Anyone 18 years old or older can join Orkut.
In 2003, Google offered to purchase the social network Friendster, but the offer was declined by that company. Google then internally commissioned Orkut Büyükkökten to work on a competing independent project. The result was Orkut. The product launched on January 24, 2004. The community membership was originally by invitation only:
"Orkut is unique and fun, because it's an organically growing network of trusted friends. That way we will all have at least one person to vouch for them. If you know someone who is a member of Orkut, that person can invite you to join as well. If you don't know an Orkut member, wait a bit and most likely you soon will. We look forward to having you as part of the Orkut community."
During the first year, the United States had the largest user base. By word of mouth various Brazilians began adopting and inviting more friends, in a viral process driven by the blogosphere. Soon after, Brazil surpassed the U.S. in the number of users and Orkut started becoming heavily popular in Brazil. Americans then started leaving the service and switching to other similar sites such as MySpace and Friendster. This phenomenon was covered by the English blogosphere with some criticism towards Brazilians because they tended to communicate (not only among themselves) using their native language, Portuguese, and not English.
From that time, Orkut growth was driven by Brazilian users, first being opened to everyone by register and becoming one of the most popular websites in Brazil.The creator Orkut Büyükkökten visited Brazil in 2007, in an attempt to understand the success in that country. In 2007 Orkut began attracting a large number of Indians who were seemingly not intimidated by the number of Brazilians on the site. Orkut also has a simplified site for mobile users. "m.Orkut.com". In 2008, a new feature was introduced for users having slow internet connections to access Orkut using the "View Orkut in lighter version" setting.
Over the years, Orkut has also found great popularity in Estonia as witnessed by a survey conducted by the independent research center GfK Custom Research Baltic which showed how Orkut is the most used social network platform in that country.