afaqs!

Is that really Orkut on Facebook?

By , agencyfaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | October 08, 2007
Applications like Fmail and MyOrkut on Facebook allow members to check Orkut and Gmail without leaving the site

As Facebook & #BANNER1 & # continues its charge as the hottest destination of social media, a recent development has got netizens buzzing. Facebook members can now access Orkut without even leaving the site. Moreover, Facebook also allows members to add an application (a module which performs a function on the site) through which they can check their Gmail account.

These applications are neither developed by Facebook nor owned by the company. Facebook allows independent or third party developers to create these applications and provide them to its members. The site currently has over 5,000 applications and 39 million active members.

This is where Facebook significantly differs from Google's Orkut which does not allow third-party developers. However, technology blog Tech Crunch recently reported that Google is planning to make the change at Orkut and allow external applications by November 2007.

The developer behind the MyOrkut application is an Indian, Jeetu Mirchandani. Mirchandani is an ex-IIT Mumbai student. A Facebook member can add this application in his profile by providing his Orkut profile id. Once added, he can access many of the Orkut features within Facebook without logging on to Orkut. For example, a member can check his friends' profiles, photos, videos, send scraps and even invite Facebook friends to use My Orkut.

Fmail, the application which gives access to Gmail on Facebook, is created by two MIT (US) students -- Courtland Allen and Aaron Rosado. Using this application, a member can check and send mails from Gmail, add contacts, change signature, edit or add labels and invite Gmail friends to use Fmail. Gchat, the chat within Gmail, is not integrated in Fmail right now, but its creators are working on it.

Although these applications do not offer the complete functionality and user experience of Orkut or Gmail, they definitely have the power to take away the traffic and page views from the original sites. However, Rosado, in a Facebook message response to this reporter, does not feel it is a threat, "I do not think Fmail will cannibalise Gmail, nor is that really our intent. Gmail has some features and advantages that Fmail does not, and so people will always have a reason to use it. On the flip side, Fmail has its own advantages that Gmail cannot offer. Convenience for Facebook users is a big factor."

Now, whether My Orkut and Fmail will make a dent in the online ad revenues of Google is a question to ponder. Fmail, with 607 daily active users, does not have online ads as of now but its creators have plans to monetise it by advertising. Surprisingly, MyOrkut -- with 2,254 daily active users -- is displaying ads by Google even though Google has announced that it will discontinue ads on Orkut.

Amit Ranjan, co-founder and CEO, Slideshare.net, says, "Facebook restricts application developers to transfer the complete functionality of a site to an application." He adds that "applications which offer the core function have fewer chances of success on Facebook as compared to fun and entertainment applications". Slideshare also has a Facebook application which allows Slideshare members to import online slideshows into Facebook.

Facebook's 'open' model, in allowing external developers to create applications for its members, seems to have stood in good stead and is becoming a source of concern for other social media sites. In fact, Google is believed to be working on a social network aggregator which would allow members to visit all social media sites through one service.