There was Internet, then there was the World Wide Web and then, around 2005, came the social network. Quite a few of them in fact, such as MySpace and Friendster. The one social network that stood out though was Orkut, which was owned by Google.
With its communities, profiles and the way people made connections, Orkut became massively popular. But after social networks such as Facebook and Twitter arrived on the scene and loyalties began to shift, Orkut started to fade. A flurry of controversies related to fake profiles, hate speech and more, did not help.
Finally, in September 2014, Google decided to shut down Orkut. The social network, at one point, had more than 300 million active users.
The man at the heart of Orkut was Orkut Büyükkökten. The Turkish-born engineer gave birth to Orkut and made it a success. In March 2014, he left Google to develop a new social network.
It is called Hello and with its launch Büyükkökten is back in the limelight. Hello is a social network based on people's interests. When we spoke over Skype, Büyükkökten seemed charged up with all his plans. We talked about Hello, Orkut and more.
How has the journey been from Orkut to Hello?
Orkut.com was my first effort to connect to people. We created a great social network where people had long conversations about their subjects of interests. There were communities built, friends made, people fell in love and some even got married.
It was a great journey of connecting more than 300 million people across the globe. When I left Google, the project was shutting down and it saddened me.
That's why I wanted to make a new social network. I have always had passion for how technology can connect people.
Tell us something about Hello.
Hello is the continuation of Orkut. Communities feature was the strongest point of Orkut and that's what our focus is at Hello. Today's social networks are based on Likes and +1s, but our aim is to make more people interact based on common interests.
We want to create a happy social network rather than quantifying the measures. People spent a considerable amount of time on Orkut in various communities. We want that friendly, supportive environment to return.
Today people are accessing more and more things on their smartphones. So we wanted to create something which is mobile first as well.
If I want to explain Hello to someone in under a minute, how would I do that?
Hello is an interest based network. Once you sign up, you can choose five interests and you will join those personas. We call communities persona here at Hello. Your timeline would be the mix of things you're interested in the most.
Every post you make can belong to different personas. For instance, if you go scuba diving and take a picture, it can belong to travellers, scuba divers and adventure junkies communities.
At Hello, we won't restrict you from exploring new personas. Today, say you want to check out what is going on in the world of football. You can go to that community and see the conversations taking place even without adding it to your profile.
How is this different than Reddit, Facebook or even Orkut?
Reddit is more like a discussion forum. Here we have a more conversational approach to each post and comment. We encourage more visual content to be present in the app.
One more differentiating factor is that communities are made and controlled by us. We want to ensure that there are no duplicate communities and there is no spam or hateful content on the network.
You built two social networks from scratch, how was the experience different?
I am so happy that you asked this question. The technological difference is so vast. Orkut was built on a Windows platform using Visual studio, SQL server, and mostly C# programming language. At that time, I was the only engineer working on it. I even designed the initial pages of Orkut.
Another difficulty we faced was to scale the social network. The response received was tremendous. So we had to move the network to more servers. It was such a monumental task that it took almost a year to complete the whole operation.
Today, the situation is different. I felt while building Hello that we have better tools for building great services and apps.
Recently, we launched in Brazil and we had an overwhelming number of users coming to the website. So we had to scale up. But this time, it only took us 10 days to complete everything.
India was one of Orkut's biggest user-bases. What plans do you have for the new social network in the country?
India is a very special country for me as I had a great response from there in my Orkut days. Certainly, we want to launch Hello as soon as possible in India. We are trying to launch it this month. But if we can't make it happen, we will surely launch it early in September.
There is a lot of excitement in India over Hello. Are you launching some country specific features?
We are adding a lot of communities which are specific to the countries. We know that the country is crazy behind cricket, so we already have one in place. Also, India is known to love its movies very much. So we have already added a Bollywood community.
Going forward, we will include more stuff once we are officially launched here. Right now you can sign up on the Hello page and we will notify you as soon as we launch.
Many people still talk about Orkut. Many have stories about how they spent time there. Do you think Hello has the potential to become as big as Orkut? Espcially, when social networks are fading fast.
It is great to hear that people still think about Orkut. We want more people to be involved in Hello. We are building this to create more stories which make the world a more friendly place. We know that there is a lack of interest-based social network after Orkut. Hello will fit into those shoes very well.