Paradox Paradise

Would you still call it nonsense, if sense exchanges its meaning with nonsense?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What do you know about who do you know?

“Thank God! You didn’t name it after your family name!” Scraped Sig. Luca Venzella, who’s a 40-year old single, who knows there’s no such thing as an ideal match (neither in a matchbox nor on a football field), in Orkut Buyukkokten’s scrap book on February 27th 2004. That was just about a month after orkut.com was officially launched. That wisecrack will go down on the pages of world history one day, if it hasn’t already.

The Young Turk, Buyukkokten came to USA in 1997, to do a Ph. D programme in Computer Science from Stanford. He modified the first sentence of Moby Dick, by changing the name and omitting ‘having little or no money in my purse’ part, to use as the first lines of his personal page in the University website. By completing the course by 2001, his visa had expired and he joined Google for a valid reason to continue living in the waterside of life where money floated and flowed.

Apart from giving massages to its employees (Buyukkokten has self-scraped about it in his scrapbook), Google also asks their employees to devote 20% of the paid working time on their personal projects. Using this one-day-a-week to work, Buyukkokten with his friend and fellow graduate Tyler Ziemann built a social network program called Club Nexus for the undergraduates in Stanford. Seeing its success the duo formed the company called Affinity Engines, and developed InCircle, a similar program for the Stanford Alumni Association. About a year later, Google declared to buy a program developed by its in-house engineers, and launched orkut.com on January 22nd 2004. The site was just ‘in affiliation’ with Google at that time. And nobody then thought Google will want to become Yahoo, or MSN, but will stay what they are, enjoying their leading position in search engine business. Though it has later integrated to the Google portal along with Gmail, Gtalk and Blogger, even after 3 years, orkut.com is still its beta version. That’s about not ‘wasting’ any more money on development unnecessary.

Four months later Affinity Engines sued Orkut Buyukkokten and Google for breaking the contract and stealing their source code. According to them, they have uncovered nine software bugs in orkut.com, identical to InCircle, and indicative of a common source code. AEI claims that Buyukkokten had given written and verbal agreement that he won’t work on any other social network programs, as a commitment to support his project with them – InCircle. To promote orkut.com as a trustworthy site, the membership was only on invitation, a method that was proved a huge success for Gmail. And there were 100,000 members by 48 hours of its launch, and it crossed the million mark in 6 months. Proving their initial tagline – expand the circumference. That’s exactly what Google did with orkut.com – expanding its circumference.

The registration process demands 5 or 6 pages of personal information to be filled in. And more than 50 percentage of over 43 million registered users provided their personal information in detail. More than generating revenue directly from the new tool, it was this invaluable user data – the kind of demographic data any marketing machine would need, that Google was aiming for.

Another method they used to fuel the site’s popularity was the user-friendly public message board, instead of a private one. Though everyone knows that it’s a public message board and anybody can access it, people tend to use it like a private message service. That’s easy to understand from the psychological state of the user, because he or she is seeing their message board only after signing in, and it creates the same impression of reading your mails or private messages. And it successfully reduces the number of aliases, and profile of anybody belongs to a friend list has more chances to be authentic than fake. There’s also a private messaging facility, almost similar to the public one. But it purposely involves you more steps to reply to a message, and none of the users I know uses it.

Though, you should be 18 years or older to be eligible to be a member, there are millions who are much younger in the network. It had created a huge issue in Brasil, where over 90% people who have Internet access at home are registered users of orkut.com. Even now, over 60% of the users are from Brasil, and about 20% from India, and about10% from USA. “The people in Brasil are very friendly”, commented Buyukkokten, “and that’s the only reason I can think of its huge success in Brasil”. I can think of a few more. Because, sooner, Brasil and India will have an equal share in the network. Yes, the two havens newly opened up for global marketers.

I have also found on net, from unreliable sources, that Orkut Buyukkokten earns from every single profile registered, every single friend added, every single photograph uploaded, every single scrap and for each of its replies, etc. Though, I’m not sure about the amounts, I’m sure that Google pays to Buyukkokten. Why would they pay? By submitting, posting or displaying any Materials on or through the orkut.com service, you automatically grant to us [Google] a worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicenseable, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to copy, distribute, create derivative works of, publicly perform and display such Materials. That’s one of the terms every single orkut.com user had agreed upon while registering. I don’t know what they will do with your photographs, or stupid scarps.

There’s a possibility that I can think of. Some more rambling before coming to that.

Some 12 years back, one of my friends who was more interested in textbooks than the usual philosophical bullshitting rebellious teenagers like me were aimlessly indulging, told me one small secret of life.

“There are no secrets as such,” he told me, “only that the people who know your secrets won’t meet the people who don’t know your secrets.”

“That’s my concept of God, the one who knows everything. Till that date when all the information is split and kept, we all will stay as humans ,” I quipped.

It sounded really funny then, and sounds somewhat scary now. It might take some more time before Google becomes God, but it can soon be a power Orwell, Burgess, Bradbury, and the other dystopians were warning us about. You very well know what it’s like if your bank’s server is down for a day. Once the filthy old currencies stop being around, you will be worth only a few digits in some remote storage device. And it will be a Google or Yahoo or MSN who will be having that device at their command. What do I know?

“By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.”

- The last sentence of Chapter One, Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

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At Mon Feb 26, 04:20:00 pm, Blogger clash said...

Google is making indelible mark on our lives. I think this is not the right moment in history to judge its affects, because we are saved by the poor who are not networked! :-) But when everyone is networked, i think humanity will move on to a new crisis - "Excess of information" . Though we claim, in digital era we hardly need to remeber anything, the basic structre of a human brain enables it to store a lot of information.

Information excess!!

At Mon Feb 26, 10:16:00 pm, Blogger Jubin George said...

Very true, about the poor saving the lives of the rich.

And I see the successful and rich trying hard to become poor and illiterate (unlearn, in their terminology), as it would be the only way to escape from the grips of the network!

After all it's humankind's duty to invent an 'intelligent' way towards extinction :)

At Tue Feb 27, 07:21:00 pm, Anonymous rini said...

really gud one..also d previous one...

At Sun Mar 04, 12:31:00 pm, Blogger Amooma said...

informative and ur fears r valid, though something none of us thot abt or imagined while joining or (over)using orkut. how come u discovered that royalty free usage clause in the orkut agreement? read all agreements thru, do u?

At Sun Mar 04, 11:02:00 pm, Blogger .:[Danish989]:. said...

I love how you write man.
I've been pursuing writing for some time now .. and the feeling is just great, the feeling of being published.

Keep it up man. Got to learn a little by looking at your blog.

please visit mine, and my opinion on life, and give me a review?


would love to talk on msn messenger. humans can only share so much experience.


At Wed Mar 07, 06:55:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me fortunate.

Your writing has a certain verve. But then you must see to it that you improve. Like writing a corporate newsletter or something... :)

At Fri Mar 09, 06:23:00 pm, Blogger Jubin George said...

rini: Thank you.

amooma: Don't bother to read the terms of service, you can blindly agree to it. Because one of the invariable terms in any of those agreements reads like this: "We also reserve the right to modify these Terms of Service from time to time without notice." And you have no option of selective agreement :)

danish: thank you for the nice words. Read some Orwell, and you can learn a million things more about writing simple and clear.

anony: Thank you for the encouraging two bits, and the suggestion. I promise to stop writing when I'm satisfied with my writing. :)
And did you say corporate newsletters??!!! :)

At Thu Mar 15, 03:17:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was kinda scary. no seriously. when suddenly orkut connected all my school friends, college freinds, relatives...in one single string, i probably got carried away in its glitz and gloss. i guess that is exactly what might have happened to the millions joined together.
but sure dude, it is scary.
very well written...nicely chosen words!


At Fri Mar 16, 12:54:00 pm, Blogger Jubin George said...

dhanya: Like clash had said, it's too early to be too scared. We have the non-networked poor to save the world, for the time being. And, I wouldn't be surprised if Google start pumping money to make the poor kids of India, South America and Africa computer literate. They can call it their corporate responsibility :)

At Sat Mar 17, 05:11:00 pm, Blogger Amooma said...

yeah, and create a 1984??
that book was scary and depressing.
hope orkut is not the first step to that stage.:O

At Sat Mar 17, 11:56:00 pm, Blogger Jubin George said...

amooma: Possible at least, if not probable.


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