After taking several big swings (and whiffs) at social, Google has finally cracked a line drive with Google+. In just three weeks since launch, the network has shot to 20 million users, and generally received praise from the tech world for its design and novel approach to grouping friends.
But such immediate success spawns an important question: What now happens to the other social networks Google has developed? Over the years, the search giant has sustained a series of blunders in social, from Wave to Buzz to Orkut. Despite initial excitement, Google Wave ended as a flop; Buzz became bogged down with privacy issues; and Orkut never went mainstream in the U.S. Yet the latter two networks still exist, remnants of once promising social products. Google must eventually decide what to do with Buzz and Orkut–either shut them down and port their users to Google+, or risk creating a fragmented social ecosystem. For now, however, Google has decided to sit tight.
“As you know, we just launched Google+ in a limited field trial,” a Google spokesperson tells Fast Company. “It’s still very early days. Orkut, Buzz and Google+ are different products, and all currently exist. Over time, we’ll determine what makes the most sense in terms of integrating these products.”
It’s important to remember just how much usage Buzz and Orkut have seen. Buzz, after its rollout, saw tens of millions of users, although this figure has likely declined. Meanwhile, Orkut boasts more than 100 million active users, with large followings in Brazil (50% of its user base) and India (20%).
If Google decides not to fold Orkut into Google+, it could become a big headache for users of both networks, especially in international markets, where Orkut is still popular. According to a comScore report out Friday, Google+ is soaring in Brazil and India. Roughly 620,000 users from Brazil have joined Google+, while more than 2.8 million users from India have joined the network, second only to the U.S. and about triple the number of users from the U.K., the third largest market on Google+.
Yet Google is clear that Orkut isn’t going anywhere for now, even if Google+ continues its growth.
“Orkut has a large user base, especially in Brazil and India,” says the Google spokesperson. “And we will continue to invest in the product.”
[Image: Flickr user baldheretic]