Hello as a spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor to Orkut: Orkut Buyukkok­ten

He talks to Alive over the launch of Hello – a re­de­fined come­back of Orkut among so­cial net­work ri­vals like, Face­book, Twit­ter and Snapchat.

Alive - - Contents - by Ramesh Ku­mar Raja

If you are a tech savvy, you might not have for­got­ten Orkut.com, the first stream­lined so­cial net­work­ing plat­form, even be­fore we had Face­book, Twit­ter and Snapchat. Such was its craze that Orkut went on to be­come one of the most vis­ited web­sites in In­dia and Brazil in 2008. The erst­while trend­set­ter web­site took hold in the coun­try like a boss.

How­ever, hav­ing lost its sheen to ri­vals, Orkut shut down its ser­vices in 2014.

Now, its cre­ator Orkut Buyukkok­ten, a former Google em­ployee, is back with a bang with yet an­other plat­form, Hello

Net­work, which is built par­tic­u­larly for the new mo­bile gen­er­a­tion.

Avail­able on Google Play Store and Ap­ple App Store, Hello brings peo­ple to­gether around their in­ter­ests to cre­ate pos­i­tive, mean­ing­ful, au­then­tic con­nec­tions and sus­tained so­cial en­gage­ment. We talked to Buyukkok­ten to know more about his new so­cial ven­ture, which holds a great sig­nif­i­cance, es­pe­cially in wake of Face­book data breach which rocked the world re­cently.

Ex­cerpts:

So­cial me­dia land­scape has changed in­cred­i­bly, es­pe­cially since Orkut. There are sev­eral so­cial net­work­ing web­sites these days. So, what in­spired you to make a re-en­try with Hello, an­other net­work­ing plat­form?

So­cial net­works to­day don’t con­nect us to one an­other the way they used to a decade ago. Our so­cial feeds are filled with chore­ographed mo­ments, ide­al­is­tic posts, and fake ap­pear­ances. This gen­er­a­tion stopped shar­ing their gen­uine and au­then­tic feel­ings on­line be­cause there is so much fear of re­jec­tion and dis­ap­proval. As a con­se­quence, we stopped shar­ing things that are emo­tion­ally mean­ing­ful. We con­nect to one an­other when we are real, open and hon­est. So­cial net­works to­day stopped bring­ing peo­ple to­gether and en­abling new au­then­tic con­nec­tions. In­stead, they are caus­ing anx­i­ety, de­pres­sion and so­cial iso­la­tion.

So­cial was a very happy, fun ex­pe­ri­ence with Orkut. We had such a lov­ing, kind and amaz­ing com­mu­nity.

Peo­ple there made new friends, found love, even got mar­ried and had kids. It brought the world closer to­gether. We are con­tin­u­ing the tra­di­tion with Hello to make so­cial net­work­ing so­cial again and cre­at­ing those mag­i­cal mo­ments and con­nec­tions that en­hance our life ex­pe­ri­ences.

Smart­phone is the ubiq­ui­tous tool now to be on net­work­ing plat­forms any­time any­where. What is the USP of Hello that may re­tain its users?

We all have two main hu­man needs. We all want to con­nect to one an­other and we all want to pur­sue our pas­sions. So­cial net­works to­day don’t con­nect us the way we do in real life, around in­ter­ests and things we care about. Hello is all about con­nect­ing with one an­other around shared in­ter­ests. So­cial net­works to­day fo­cus on broad­cast­ing to your friends and fol­low­ers, or one-to-one mes­sag­ing with peo­ple you al­ready know. Hello is about peo­ple that you should meet and con­nect with that you haven’t met yet and who share your in­ter­ests.

We are cen­tral­iz­ing all of the user’s pas­sion-com­mu­ni­ties in one place lead­ing to the easy dis­cov­ery of like-minded oth­ers.

Fea­tures such as con­nect­ing with peo­ple and in­ter­ac­tions within groups are al­ready avail­able on other plat­forms. What value does Hello add to make it dif­fer­ent from oth­ers?

Groups in so­cial net­works to­day don’t work very well be­cause there are too many groups users can join around the same in­ter­ests. Group dis­cus­sion and con­tent are self­con­tained within the group mem­bers and over time groups get too seg­re­gated and there is over-con­trol or lack of mod­er­a­tion.

We have a very dif­fer­ent so­lu­tion to solv­ing in­ter­est­based so­cial net­work­ing. We pro­vide mul­ti­ple lev­els

So­cial net­works to­day don’t con­nect us to one an­other the way they used to a decade ago. Our so­cial feeds are filled with chore­ographed mo­ments, ide­al­is­tic posts, and fake ap­pear­ances. This gen­er­a­tion stopped shar­ing their gen­uine and au­then­tic feel­ings on­line be­cause there is so much fear of re­jec­tion and dis­ap­proval. As a con­se­quence, we stopped shar­ing things that are emo­tion­ally mean­ing­ful.

of con­tent or­ga­ni­za­tion (broad to spe­cific, global to lo­cal) that cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment of high-rel­e­vance and gives the user con­trol. We in­tro­duce a top level of in­ter­est cat­e­gories that we call per­sonas. When users join Hello, they pick 5 from a list of 120 (such as Foodie, Bol­ly­wood Fan, En­trepreneur, Health En­thu­si­ast).

We cus­tom­ize the en­tire user ex­pe­ri­ence around those per­sonas. Users can still cre­ate their own com­mu­ni­ties which be­long to per­sonas. This also en­ables con­tent dis­cov­ery out­side of the com­mu­ni­ties you be­long to.

We have a rep­u­ta­tion sys­tem on Hello that we call Karma. As users have in­ter­ac­tions on con­tent and with other users, their rep­u­ta­tion changes. The in­ter­ac­tions can be pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive and users have dif­fer­ent rep­u­ta­tions on dif­fer­ent in­ter­ests. For in­stance, one user can be very knowl­edge­able, an ex­pert and well re­spected as an En­trepreneur but a new­bie as a Comic Fan. The dis­tri­bu­tion of con­tent is tied to rep­u­ta­tion. As a con­se­quence, is­sues like fake news does not oc­cur on Hello since con­tent will only spread widely if the cre­ator has earned the rep­u­ta­tion of the rel­e­vant com­mu­nity.

The re­sponse in In­dia has been phe­nom­e­nal. We signed up over 100,000 users in In­dia two weeks af­ter we launched. The qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive feed­back has been strong and we’ve been work­ing hard to it­er­ate and im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence based on feed­back.

In­dia was one of the top coun­tries on orkut.com and had such a strong and lov­ing com­mu­nity. We see Hello as a spir­i­tual suc­ces­sor to Orkut. We wanted to con­tinue the tra­di­tion and con­nect peo­ple to one an­other around com­mu­ni­ties.

We have a dig­i­tal sys­tem ob­jects model we in­cor­po­rate into our ecosys­tem that has a vir­tual cur­rency. Users can get ac­cess to con­tent and fea­tures us­ing Hello coins. This is a well known model in free to play games.

Hello is free, and pur­chas­ing coins is not re­quired to be a mem­ber. Brands are an im­por­tant part of our lives and en­hance our daily ex­pe­ri­ences. We are go­ing to in­tro­duce brands into Hello and let them align with users around things they are pas­sion­ate about.

Data se­cu­rity is the talk of the town, es­pe­cially in wake of Face­book data breach. What steps are you tak­ing to­wards main­tain­ing pri­vacy?

One of the ma­jor prob­lems we have to­day in the so­cial land­scape is that com­pa­nies are pri­or­i­tiz­ing brands, co­op­er­a­tions, share­hold­ers and ad­ver­tis­ers over users. So­cial net­works are all about peo­ple and users should be the cham­pi­ons. Al­go­rithms in so­cial net­works should be op­ti­mized to en­hance user hap­pi­ness and sat­is­fac­tion, not to in­crease clicks on ad­ver­tis­ers and time spent. Trans­parency about data and prac­tices are very crit­i­cal to gain user trust.

On Hello we have our own reg­is­tra­tion and au­then­ti­ca­tion sys­tem that does not in­te­grate with third par­ties. We also don’t share user data with third par­ties.

Con­sid­er­ing In­di­ans’ love for mo­bile and apps in In­dia, do you have any plan to set up an of­fice in In­dia?

Def­i­nitely, In­dia is a high pri­or­ity for Hello. In­di­ans spent 70% of mo­bile in­ter­net time on so­cial me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment apps. The con­sumers here are very pas­sion­ate, early adopters to new tech­nolo­gies and have a very friendly and wel­com­ing qual­ity. It’s im­por­tant for us to have a lo­cal pres­ence with the com­mu­nity. There is an amaz­ing tech tal­ent in In­dia as well. Our first hires will fo­cus on Mar­ket­ing and Oper­a­tions and will be work­ing in Mum­bai. We have al­ready started in­ter­view­ing can­di­dates.

Orkut Buyukkok­ten: The founder of hello net­work.

Orkut Buyukkok­ten

Hello App

Hello App

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