Staying in touch, making plans for the next vacation, listening to music, sharing pictures and even creating videos... social networking sites let us do all these, and much more. Now, as more and more Indians get ‘networked’—sharing their blogs, playing games, creating invitations or replying to queries—the rules of the game are changing. If MySpace extended its globally popular music-centred ethos to India by redesigning its Indihub recently, Orkut’s introduction of the ‘Teen Patti’ game is an indication of the shape of things to come. We take a look at five popular social networking sites and their ideas for India
With 717,581 registrations in its “India network”, Facebook is the second most popular social networking site in India. According to an industry report, between January and June 2007, the number of unique visitors to this site stood at 785,000.
While this growth was phenomenal, it was spurred by two major factors. Facebook was the first social network to introduce a range of new features such as games, quizzes and mapping applications, apart from giving “mini-feeds” and “status” that kept users informed about friends. The site augmented this by adding live chat and letting people swap text in real time. The other factor was privacy. At a time when you had access to any user’s profile, pictures or videos, Facebook gave members the option of controlling their media, letting them decide what they wanted to share with friends and keep from strangers. For most advanced users, Facebook is the place to be seen at, literally.
Compared to Orkut or Facebook, MySpace opened its India portal only four months ago. But that hasn’t stopped this popular online hang-out space from establishing itself as one of the most preferred sites for Indians.
Unlike most social networks that centre on building friendships and other user-generated media, MySpace has always been at the forefront of nurturing, hosting and sharing music created by its users. Globally, this network has been credited with discovering more than eight million artists, through its “Musicians’ profiles” that allow people to contribute at least six MP3s of their original music.
MySpace extended its music-centred ethos to India last week by redesigning its Indihub: an umbrella site that lets Indian users contribute on the latest happenings in their cities, link up with people of similar interests and share their music and videos. For now, the site is focusing on three Indian cities—Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore—giving each a Web page with city-specific forums, featured videos, a list of users from the city and specials that chronicle notable events.
The redesign has tried to bring in an Indian flavour, with the banner proudly displaying monuments, music full of Indian instruments and videos that try to capture melas, festivals and traditions unique to the country.
According to Orkut, 17.06% of its members are Indians, making us the second largest nation on its network. And considering the traffic from this part of the world, the site has been regularly introducing a host of applications to fit the Indian mindset.
To begin with, Orkut patched up a number of its privacy holes, giving users the right to decide on accessibility to individual profiles. Then came the “Open Social”, a set of applications that extended from games to programs to help you invite friends to a particular location that you marked on a map. And then, of course, Orkut’s immensely popular game, “Teen Patti”. What’s more, 50% of these applications were created in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and Bangalore for Indian users.
Even the base of Orkut has been changed to accommodate as many registrations as possible from India. With dial-up connections still very slow in India, and the mobile infrastructure limited to 2G, Orkut responded with a low-bandwidth version and a mobile version which could preserve the experience even at low speeds. To cater to its Indian members, the site also introduced an application so users could use Indian languages (Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Gujarati, to name a few) to manage their accounts.
YouTube, primarily a video-sharing site, has created a community of its own—one dedicated to uploading, commenting on and rating user-generated videos. YouTube India went live in May, creating a portal that features videos relevant to Indian users and focused on videos created by Indian users. While, YouTube has a history of opening different portals for different nations, India presents a unique problem for it. Video-streaming, by definition, requires fast Internet connection and large bandwidth—theoretically this is something that broadband is expected to provide. Unfortunately, India is still struggling with slow broadband speeds and moody telephone dial-up connections. YouTube needs to adapt to these constraints. The only other option, uploading videos through mobile phones, will have to wait for implementation of 3G networks and a subsequent fall in the price of services.
If MySpace is for music and YouTube for videos, LinkedIn is aimed at a specific group: business networking. New users to LinkedIn need to fill in details of their work profile, the industry they work in, apart from providing the usual information of location, age and gender. This network is like a work directory-cum-personal phone book. A popular destination for recruiters, job seekers and those looking to apply for project-based vacancies, LinkedIn has gained in the number of hits and registrations since its India launch in 2003.
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