Just yesterday, we wrote about how Facebook was quickly gaining on Google’s social network, Orkut, in places like India where Orkut is still the big dog. One reason for Facebook’s gains is that they’ve been heavily promoting the fact that you can import your Orkut contacts via a special tool. Well guess what? As of today, that tool no longer works.
And that’s not all. Previously, even without the tool, it was pretty easy to export you contacts from Orkut into a CSV (comma separated value) file. But that’s no longer working either. The option still exists on the Friends page in Orkut, but when you click on it, and fill in the CAPTCHA, it simply redirects you to Orkut’s main page.
Coincidence? Maybe. But we’ve already gotten emails from users in India who saw our post and rushed to try and export their friend data to escape Orkut, only to be shot down. And let’s not forget that Google and Facebook have been down a similar road before. Last year, Facebook blocked Google’s Friend Connect from accessing the data on its network. This led to a silly he said/she said spat in which the users were the losers. Could this be payback?
Facebook is undoubtedly increasingly interested in India not only because it is the largest social network in the world, but thanks to Facebook Lite, it’s much more accessible to a wide range of people. Orkut, meanwhile, is, well, a social network that Google seems to talk about as little as possible.
To test the friend export functionality tonight, I logged into my Orkut account for the first time in what must be years. I was shocked to find that there were other people I knew actually on it, that Google was recommending that I friend. So I sent a few requests out, and within minutes, this is the reply I got back (over email):
“what the f**k?”
The message behind that being, “why are you using Orkut?” For some people in India right now, sadly, it appears that they have no choice.
I wonder what Google’s Data Liberation team thinks about this? I have a feeling the official word we’ll get back from Google is “bug.” But given the timing and the fact that two different ways to export your friends broke at once, I’m not so sure that the word they’re really looking for isn’t “hypocrisy.”
Update: As expected, Google is calling this a “bug.” Still, there some interesting things about this “bug.” And it’s not yet clear if Facebook’s Orkut importing tool is working again.