Orkut From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 28.12.2006
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Orkut is an Internet social network service run by Google and named after its creator, Google employee Orkut Büyükkökten. It claims to be designed to help users meet new friends and maintain existing relationships. Similar to Friendster and MySpace, Orkut goes a step further by permitting the creation of easy-to-setup simple forums (called “communities”) of users. Until recently, Orkut was invitation only, but it now permits users to create accounts without an invitation.
Orkut was quietly launched on January 22, 2004 by the search company Google. Orkut Büyükkökten, a Turkish software engineer, developed Orkut as an independent project while working at Google (required by its policy). Some discomfort with this exists among users and potential users of Orkut, especially since Google’s other noteworthy product of 2004, the Web-based email client Gmail, had servers scan emails for keywords in order to deliver advertisements targeted at them, which sparked an idea that Google was “reading your e-mail”.
While previously working for Affinity Engines, he had developed a similar system, InCircle, intended for use by university alumni groups. In late June 2004, Affinity Engines filed suit against Google, claiming that Büyükkökten and Google based Orkut on inCircle code. The allegation is based on the presence of 9 identical bugs in Orkut that also exist in InCircle.
Originally, the Orkut community was felt to be elite, because its membership was by invitation only. At the end of July 2004 Orkut surpassed the 1,000,000 member mark, and at the end of September it surpassed the 2,000,000 mark. As of December 6, 2006, the number of members was over 35.2 million.
Orkut’s use as a social tool is complex, because various people frequently try to add strangers to their own pool of friends, often just to increase the number indicating their number of friends next to their name in their profile. Many “add-me” communities exist, solely for this purpose. A large number of bogus, cloned, fake, invisible and “orphaned” profiles also exist. 
Users have options to rate their friends in the order of “Best Friends”,”Good Friends”,”Friends”,”Acquaintances” and “Haven’t met”. Further, each member can become fans of any of the friends in his/her list and can also evaluate whether his/her friend is “Trustworthy”, “Cool”, “Sexy” on a scale of 1 to 3 (marked by icons) and is aggregated in terms of a percentage. Unlike Facebook where a member can view profile details of people only on his/her network, Orkut allows anyone to visit anyone’s profile, unless a potential visitor is on your “Ignore List”. Importantly, each member can also customize his/her profile preferences and can restrict information that appear on their profile from their friends and/or others (not on the friends list). The highlight feature is where any member can add any other member on Orkut to his/her “Crush List” and both of them will be initimated about it only when both parties have added each other to their “Crush List”.
If person A deletes person B from his friends’ list, person A will be deleted from person B’s friends’ list also.
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 Popularity in Brazil
The Orkut community has been watching a large surge of Brazilian users registering on its service, despite the overall percentage of Brazilian users decreasing. This is the highest percentage of any single country’s population using the service. According to the New York Times it’s pronounced “or-KOO-chee”. The number of Brazilian Orkut users is just under 60% of the total users, followed by The United States and India, with about 15.9% and 12% respectively (As of December 12th, 2006). However these statistics do not reflect the demographics by country in a reliable way as members are free to submit any nationality (or country of residence) they wish and many indeed do so. Due to the number of Brazilian users and communities in the Portuguese language, users from other parts of the world became upset with the service, when it established Portuguese as the first “alternate default language,” (as English was the primary default language) prompting many community owners to enforce an English-only posting policy. Some went as far as to start online communities and discussion groups dedicated to complain about this phenomenon. Hoaxes have also been spread, with the intention of tricking Brazilian users to change their nationality in Orkut.
In a recent interview to a Brazilian news site, the creator of Orkut said he doesn’t understand the phenomenon and complains about the fact that North-American press and users are ignoring the service and using similar services like Friendster, Myspace, and Facebook. He also noted that Brazil is actually the main focus of Orkut. 
 Flooders and fake profiles
As the number of Orkut users increased, there was a rise in the number of fake and clone profiles, something that can be achieved just in a matter of a few minutes. Due to the large number of users and the deactivation of the jail system, the profiles were often left unremoved or, when removed, recreated easily. These profiles are normally created to troll, to spam, to flood or just for fun. It isn’t hard to find users owning more than one profile, with some stating they own hundreds.
In the August of 2005 a freeware program made in Delphi called Floodtudo (“tudo” in Portuguese means “everything” – this was developed by a Brazilian) was created specifically for flooding Orkut. It quickly spread through the users and was easily downloadable (the most common Floodtudo versions were 1.2, 1.5, 2.0 and 2.2). As this program was massively used by thousands of spammers, a big spam wave struck Orkut in September and October of 2005. However, changes implemented by the developers in November made this program non-functional.
As the flooding of Orkut was getting out of control, the developers implemented some features in order to stop this, such as not allowing two or more verbatim topics or scrapbook entries to be submitted, forcing the user to wait before posting another topic or scrapbook entry, and the usage of captchas. They gave more rights to community moderators as well, so that they can just ban users instead of relying on the developers to remove them, and now community moderators are able to mass-delete posts too.
Other ways of profile and community attacks still exist, like testimonial flooding attacks on scrapbook and member counters, multi-profile floods and social engineering.
 Hate groups
There has recently been controversy revolving around the use of Orkut by various hate groups. Virulent racists allegedly have a solid following there. Because of the invitation-only structure, closed groups of like-minded people were, and with the invitation free structure are able to thrive. Several hate communities focused on racism, Nazism, and white supremacy have been deleted due to guideline violation. However the number of these communities and profiles has not stopped growing because they can be very easily created and it is hard for Orkut to check them.
In 2005, various cases of racism were denounced to police and reported in the Brazilian media.   In 2006, a judicial measure was opened by the Brazil federal justice denouncing a 20-year-old student accused of racism against blacks and spreading defamatory content on Orkut. . Brazilian Federal Justice subpoenaed Google  on March 2006 to explain the crimes that had occurred in Orkut.
Anti-religion, anti-national, and anti-ethnic hate groups have also been spotted. Recently an Indian court has issued notices to Google on some of the groups. Groups denigrating various political leaders and celebrities have also emerged.
 Alleged al-Qaeda Supporters
In 2006, Orkut came under fire for supposedly allowing recruitment of sympathizers of the terrorist group al-Qaeda and jihadists on its message boards. A community on the site claimed, “The world needs more Osamas.” 
 Copyright disclaimer
Orkut’s terms of service state:
By submitting, posting or displaying any Materials on or through the orkut.com service, you automatically grant to us a worldwide, non-exclusive, sublicenseable, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right to copy, distribute, create derivative works of, publicly perform and display such Materials.
This does not mean that any contribution to the Orkut community (be it forum posts or photos) becomes the property of the site owner; while it means that Orkut can use any submitted information for any purpose, the original submitter doesn’t lose any rights to his materials.
Although other popular social network services such as Friendster and MySpace contain similar statements, this policy offended many dedicated Orkut users, some of whom deleted their accounts as a protest.
 State Censorship
Orkut was very popular in Iran, but the website is now blocked by the government. As they say, this is due to national security issues, as Orkut users have the ability to spread messages rapidly, but the government says it’s due to Islamic ethical issues about dating and match making. To get around this block, sites such as orkutproxy.com (now defunct) were made for Iranian users. Other websites such as Yahoo! Groups and Google Groups have communities dedicated to receiving updates on the newest location of Iran’s Orkut proxy. Though it was once possible to bypass governmental blockage of Orkut, the site has closed its HTTPS pages on all anonymous proxies. Now it is almost impossible for ordinary users to visit this site inside Iran. Also many sites have been published since Orkut’s blockade in Iran following the same path such as MyPardis.com, Cloob.com or Bahaneh.net. Ofcourse these websites deal with a high degree of risk to get filtered too, so they have their own censorship policies to meet Iran’s un-written regulations and rules of filtering.
Saudi Arabia is another country that has blocked access to Orkut.
 Speed and Reliability
The “Bad, bad server” screen, one of the commonly known sights on Orkut.
As of September 2006, Orkut often is unavailable, producing a “Bad, bad server. No donut for you.” error message — behavior consistent with that of an underpowered server under heavy load. The outages tend to occur during the day hours in the Americas, home of more than 75% of Orkut users.
The “orkut is under construction” screen.
Orkut sometimes displays an “under construction” screen while the server is under maintenance. These occurrences last from a few minutes to a few hours.
 Security and safety
The worm steals users’ banking details, usernames and passwords by propagating through Orkut. The attack was triggered as users launched an executable file disguised as a JPEG file. The initial executable file that causes the infection installs two additional files on the user’s computer. These files then e-mail banking details and passwords to the worm’s anonymous creator when infected users click on the “My Computer” icon.
The infection spreads automatically by posting a URL in another user’s Orkut Scrapbook, a guestbook where visitors can leave comments visible on the user’s page. This link lures visitors with a message in Portuguese, falsely claiming to offer additional photos. The message text that carries an infection link can vary from case to case.
In addition to stealing personal information, the malware can also enable a remote user to control the PC and make it part of a botnet, a network of infected PCs. The botnet in this case uses an infected PC’s bandwidth to distribute large, pirated movie files, potentially slowing down an end-user’s connection speed.
The initial executable file (Minhasfotos.exe) creates two additional files when activated, winlogon_.jpg and wzip32.exe (located in the System32 Folder). When the user clicks the “My Computer” icon, a mail is sent containing their personal data. In addition, they may be added to an XDCC Botnet (used for file sharing), and the infection link may be sent to other users that they know in the Orkut network. The infection can be spread manually, but also has the ability to send “back dated” infection links to people in the “friends list” of the infected user.
According to statements made by Google, as noted in Facetime’s Greynets Blog the company had implemented a temporary fix for the dangerous worm.
On January 1, 2005 a Brazilian hacker called Vinícius K-Max attacked Orkut, stealing community ownership rights, using a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability. Eventually, various phishing sites were developed with the intent of stealing other people’s accounts and communities.
In the first year of Orkut users who misbehaved or were reported to misbehave could be “jailed”. Their account was suspended, their site access was reasonably limited, and their profile picture was temporarily replaced with a silhouette of a man behind prison bars. Although this served a useful purpose, the way users were selected to be jailed caused heated discussions and complaints among Orkut users: every user’s profile has a “Report as Bogus” button, which, if pressed, automatically flagged the user to be jailed. Conceivably, this meant that anyone could be jailed at any time by pressing a single button.
Another way to be jailed was to have a bot-like behaviour. To safeguard against bots and similar kinds of software automations, users who added friends or joined communities in a very quick or repetitive manner were automatically put in jail. However, this also often happened to new users trying to add all their friends at once.
Users who were jailed were not informed of the reason, nor were they notified that they had been jailed. Jailing usually did not last long (up to 24 hours in most cases), but was often disturbing to users, as there is no direct contact to the Orkut team (their contact form only answers with template emails), and jailing limits one’s options to waiting or posting in a designated forum. Ironically, site users once reported that Orkut Büyükkökten, the creator of the site himself, was jailed.  The jail system is currently deactivated due to its inefficiency. Now when someone clicks on the “Report as Bogus” button, he is directed to a complaint form entitled “flag for review”, where he is able to provide further details about the abuse he is reporting.
 Legal Issues
On August 22nd 2006, Brazilian Federal Judge José Marcos Lunardelli ordered Google to release Orkut user’s information of a list of about two dozen Brazilian nationals, believed to be using Orkut to sell drugs and involved in child pornography by September 28th. The judge ordered Google to pay $23,000 per day in fines until the information is turned over to the Brazilian government. The information the government is requesting would also be used to identify individuals that are spreading child pornography and hate speech, according to the Brazilian government. As of September 27th 2006 Google has stated that they will not release the information and will instead file a brief explaining why they refuse to comply. In the brief, it said the company does not consider itself subject to Brazilian laws, since the information requested by Brazilian justice is held by the Google headquarters, located in the U.S. and not by it’s representation in Brazil.
On October 10th, 2006, the Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad bench served a notice on Google for ‘allowing a hate campaign against India’. This referred to a community on Orkut expressing Pakistani nationalism called ‘We Hate India’, which initially carried a picture of an Indian flag being burned and some anti-India content. The community currently has 116 members.
The High Court order was issued in response to a public-interest petition filed by an Aurangabad advocate. Google has six weeks to respond. Even before the petition was filed, many Orkut users had noticed this community and were mailing or otherwise messaging their contacts on Orkut to report the community as bogus to Google, which might result in its removal. The community continues to exist and has spawned several ‘We hate those who hate India’ communities.
On November 23, Bombay High Court asked the state government to file its reply in connection with a petition demanding a ban on social networking site, Orkut, for hosting an anti-Shivaji Web community.‘File reply on plea for ban on Orkut: HC’
The community had been blocked by the Pune police after a few violent incidents were reported in the city when its existence came to light two weeks ago. Though the community is currently inaccessible, the petitioner Subodh Balsaraf, a Thane resident has demanded that Orkut, which has captured the fancy of many Indians, be banned.
 See also
- List of Google services and tools
- List of social networking websites
- Social network
- Business network
- Social software
- Meneses, J. (2004). The Orkut.com case: a reflection on the exploration of new ways to online sociability in the tradition of the study of virtual communities
- Butalia, S. (2004). ‘The potential for marketers to exploit the emerging trend of online social networking groups’
- Hempell, A. (2004). Orkut at eleven weeks: An exploration of a new online social network community
- Dwoskin, E. (2006). Google won’t hand data to Brazil judge
 External links
- Orkut – official website
- Estadao Racist cases involving Orkut and Brazilian justice (in Portuguese)