Google’s Orkut – is it for user data?

More relevant discussion to my previous entry on Google’s attempts on personalizing search, this time the idea came up in discussions about Google’s new Orkut social networking site.

Jeremy Zawodny (Why Google needs Orkut) thinks Google has launched the service with the goal of collecting a huge amount of demographic and other personal information about its users and later, when the service is more widespread, connecting the database to the search service and moving towards personalized search results / personalized advertising. (Found through
John Battelle’s Searchblog, who agrees with Jeremy. )

Now, i am pretty sceptical of this as an invitation-only social network seems like the worst possible way to move into this direction. I have covered the addition of the search-count cookie and the speculation about Google launching a free email service, both of which are/would be much more effective ways of collecting the necessary user data.

For one thing, Orkut, especially being invitation-only, covers only a tiny fraction of Google’s user base, and – mind you i haven’t seen it from the inside – i can hardly see it expanding into a global network that covers a critical mass of the Google user base.

Then, there is the privacy issue. Lately, Google has increasingly been scrutinized for privacy implications of some of its new features and they are often mentioned as the “new Microsoft”. Connecting such a user database with serving advertisements on their search site would seriously threaten the brand image of Google, i think.

Also, Google could just simply offer the option to register and use their personalized service. I am 100% sure they can develop a good enough service offering so people will supply their needed data voluntarily and sign up for the new individualized Google. I just don’t see the point of conducting the switch in the form of launching a social networking site.

Comments are closed.