It may be news to most in North America, but Google has been in the social network business before Google Plus and the ill-fated Google Buzz. Orkut was their first foray into social networking, but the awkwardly named service never took off in my home country. Contrary to what some of my countrymen think, the internet doesn’t end at the border. Orkut became the dominant networking site for much of South America; as of 2011 59% of the reported 66 million Orkut users hail from Brazil, followed by India (27%) and Japan (about 7%).
The end draws nigh for Orkut, if only in name. In a recent report Engadget revealed that Orkut is being merged with Google’s Plus network. The unification will allow Orkut users to merge their profiles into Plus; the report didn’t state what would become of holdouts that refuse to be assimilated.
I’ve had a Google Plus account since the service was publicly available, but I admit I don’t use it nearly as much as Facebook. The layout and navigation are actually preferable, but as many have stated Plus just hasn’t achieved the sort of daily activity from its members that Facebook has. With Facebook showing signs of vulnerability due to its poor IPO and reports that some younger users are turning away could be the opening that Google needs to get their own offering competitive.