Marissa Mayer: Orkut's U.S. Failure Was Due To Slow Performance After Fast Growth

Today at our TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, Google’s Marissa Mayer took the stage to talk a bit with our own Michael Arrington. After she revealed a couple new Google Instant features, she went right into another topic: social.

Michael (of course) asked Mayer to disclose Google’s plans for their upcoming social strategy. Mayer (of course) would not do that. But then Michael turned the discussion to a social product Google does currently offer: Orkut. To hear Mayer tell it, the service never caught on in the U.S. simply because it was far too slow after its initial launch.

Orkut launched in January of 2004, and as Mayer remembers it, it attracted “several million users in a few days“. This caused the network to slow down to a crawl, Mayer noted. And that, in turn, turned a lot of users away from it — at least in the U.S. “It’s all about speed here,” she said.

In Brazil, where Orkut is still dominant, it was a different story. Those users didn’t mind the slowness, Mayer said (though she didn’t elaborate as to why they didn’t care). As a result, it took off, and even today it’s still the dominant social network.

Mayer noted that it took a little bit of time, but eventually Google was able to scale Orkut for its traffic surge. But by then it was probably already too late in the U.S., Mayer indicated.

Michael kept trying to get Mayer to say that in Google’s effort to play catch up in social in the U.S. they should buy Twitter or even Facebook. Again, she wouldn’t do that. She gushed about Twitter (which she said she uses daily), and she said she thought Facebook has a different mentality than what Google is trying to do with social.

Mayer also said that Google remains committed to Orkut — at least in Brazil and India where again, it’s big. “We’re pretty happy with it,” she said.