Like Clay, my mailbox has been filling up quickly with Orkut invitations and confirmations. And I’ve been spending a good bit of time this weekend (when I _should_ have been grading student websites) mulling over the system and its strengths and weaknesses. On the plus side, Orkut has gotten a number of things right. They’ve got the warm-and-fuzzy photo aspect of Friendster (see Adam Greenfield on Friendster), and reduced the emphasis on dating as the primary social mover. The interface–thought perhaps still “dorky”–isn’t nearly as offputting as what they’ve got over at Tribe (a site I’ve been entirely unable to develop an affinity for, despite my lemming-like willingness to follow friends into YASNs). But Orkut has also incorporated one of Tribe’s greatest strengths–ridiculously easy group-forming, something Friendster totally rejected. On the bad side, there are plenty of UI issues, and even more security flaws. There’s been a slew of friendspam over the past 12 hours, as people have discovered the ability to send broadcast messages to everyone on the system. And over in the “Anti-Social Networks” community, a number of folks have pointed out serious security flaws in the technical implementation. Which brings me to the ugly part. It appears that Orkut sysadmins are silently _deleting_ messages that point out flaws and problems with the system. If you’re logged into Orkut, you can look at this thread, and this one for some discussion. Unless, of course, those are deleted as well… They also appear to be starting on a Friendster-like program to delete “fakester” identities. A dubious character by the name of “Gregg Something” who tried to add me as a friend disappeared without a trace this morning. At first, I thought he’d just withdrawn his request, but a quick search revealed that he had vanished from the system without a trace. I think there’s a lot of potential here. There are a lot of discussions already starting to form around how the various inputs–number of links, karma points, etc–could create a “FriendRank” construct (again, you need to be logged into Orkut for that link to work. I think the combination of a complex, multifaceted FriendRank system with some creative visualizations (beyond the current “Network” view) could make for a really interesting tool. Bottom line for me? I think Orkut has the makings of a really interesting environment, melding the best aspects of other YASNs, and giving it the Google brand of respectability to help it go mainstream. But the silent deletion of users, communities, and posts could be deadly. I’d hate to see the site fall on its own sword this early.

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