As you may have already heard, Orkut has received a major update. Google has re-built Orkut utilising the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) – which was also utilised to develop Wave. However, in keeping with Google tradition, the redesigned Orkut is currently available to only a select few users.
The new Orkut is considerably faster than its predecessor. But, that’s not the only change. Google has redesigned pretty much everything. The home page provides you quick access to friend suggestions, birthday reminders and your network’s activity stream. The new activity stream is an obvious imitation of Facebook’s activity stream (Stories) and finally supports comments.
Orkut has got a lot of things right with its new design. The new interface is a lot cleaner and simpler. There are five different colour schemes to choose from, but (at least for now) Google seems to have ditched the idea of themes. Navigation has been improved greatly and thanks to AJAX, now you can edit your profile, check out your scrapbook, chat with your friends or comment on your friend’s activity stream without leaving the home page. Everything just seems to work the way you would expect them to. Start typing your friend’s name in the “my friends” box and Orkut will instantly display the relevant results. Want to upload a photo? The days of waiting for the upload manager applet to load is over. Simply click on the “add photos” button and select all the files you wish to upload. The “About Me” page has also been pimped. You can now add some splendour to your profile page by embedding videos or adding OpenSocial Applications.
There is no doubt that the new Orkut is a huge improvement. However, Orkut’s problem has always been that its been too late. It always seems to be playing catch-up to Facebook. Does this update make Orkut better than Facebook? Not really. Will it help in winning over Facebook users? I doubt it. Will it help in stemming the outflow of users to Facebook? Probably, Yes. These are troubled times for Orkut. Facebook is beginning to get serious about markets like India and more and more users are deserting Orkut. This design may just provide the much needed boost to curtail Orkut’s decay.
As I mentioned before, the new interface is currently available only to a select few users.
If you wish to get in on the action simply add me as a friend (necessary) and request an invite below in the comment (don’t forget to mention your Orkut name if its different). I will invite the first three person who request an invite. (All invites exhausted) You can also join the official community and participate in various activities to win invites.