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War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Orkut is Cool.

Or why PeopleRank™ is the next big thing.

The following was written on April 30, 2003, but I never got around to finishing the article:

MarkTAW: google has really made me wonder about censorship
MarkTAW: it used to be that the internet was a medium of free speech... a way to get your message heard
MarkTAW: but now that google *is* the internet, if you're not on google, you don't exist.
MarkTAW: especially now that google also owns blogger
Joe: well, it still pretends to be.. but corporations and other interests have, in trying to exploit it, changed it.
MarkTAW: and of course, echelon must look a heck of a lot like google
Joe: ::nods::

That sums my thought up pretty well. Google tracks you via a unique cookie it puts on your computer that never expires, via your IP address, and even gives different results based on your location, and stores everything you type into it.

One could argue that they're keeping this information in order to improve their search results, but what if....

Be careful what you put in that Google search. The government may now spy on web surfing of innocent Americans, including terms entered into search engines, by merely telling a judge anywhere in the U.S. that the spying could lead to information that is "relevant" to an ongoing criminal investigation. The person spied on does not have to be the target of the investigation. This application must be granted and the government is not obligated to report to the court or tell the person spied upon what it has done.
EFF Analysis Of The Provisions Of The USA PATRIOT Act

But a recent thread about Orkut gave me a new slant.

The concept behind Google, PageRank™, is brilliant. They applied an AI concept to web page searching - neural networks - and the result was... well, Google. Nothing they've done yet has been up to par with this idea, they acquired Deja News, they added a News section, they acquired Blogger, they created a section where people can answer questions.

Google now searches every web page in he known universe, archives the largest forum (newsgroups) on the planet, owns the most important free-speech tool since the invention of the Internet itself (Blogger), and has created a networking site that's taking off like wildfire.

While newsgroups were brilliant and revolutionary, Google was late on the bandwagon, but does own them. The same can be said of Blogger. Nothing brilliant has come out of Google since PageRank™, but Orkut has the possibility of being brilliant all over again.

Orkut capitalizes on the Six Degrees of Separation meme. The idea that everyone on the planet is connected by no fewer than six people. How long is it until we get PeopleRank™? And more important to corporations, ProductRank™, and Politicians OpinionRank™.

The TV show Total Request Live, or TRL on MTV is a live show where people vote on their top 10 music videos and MTV plays them, or clips from them. It also has celebrities, a live audience, and a mob of teenage girls outside whenever their favorite boy band shows up.

It's also the single most powerful focus group on the planet. Under the skin, TRL is actually a market research tool designed to figure out what teenagers want, and how to sell it to them. There isn't a moment on TRL where you're not being sold to, and not a moment that's not being carefully scrutinized by people steeped in marketing & sales.

There is one other force on the planet that has this kind of power. Weblogs. Evidenced by BlogDex, the website created at MIT which lists "the most contagious information currently spreading in the weblog community," and Popdex, " Popdex crawls over 14,000 sites daily to determine the most popular links on the Internet."

Popdex also includes a buzz archive of the most popular searches on Yahoo, and a list of rising words in weblogs. Throw in Google Zeitgeist, a list of the most popular searches on Google and you have the most powerful market research tool on the planet.

If I'm a major corporation or a politician, how long do I have to wait to get back market research on a product or speech? And how do you do it? Phone calls, focus groups, opinion polls at the local mall? Those could take days or weeks to complete.

Well no longer. Now you can get near instantaneous feedback online. Create a tool that searches the most popular weblogs and forums, the ones most important to what you're interested in, and you can know within minutes - moments if you add chat rooms - what people think.

Within hours of the State of the Union, White House spin doctors can gauge the public reaction by reading popular weblogs, and they know which weblogs have been updated because their friends at Google told them. They'll even find out who the opinion leaders are based on the number of links in to various weblogs. They can even monitor chat rooms (and probably private instant message chats as well) to find out what people are thinking as the speech is going on.

At the start of the Internet boom, DoubleClick tracked you as you travelled amongst it's affiliate sites so that when you logged in to any one of them, they already knew all your interests. Once you create a profile with any of them, they get your demographic information as well. Well, it looks like we don't need DoubleClick anymore.

Since Google has become the Internet, we don't even need DoubleClick anymore. We know what people are looking for and at based on their searches and links from other websites. We know what people are saying about who and when.

And now, thanks to Orkut, we not only know what people are searching for, talking about and linking to, we know who.

I feel the need to repeat this from one of the below mentioned forum threads: "It's a piece of software people, it's neither God nor The Devil."

It will be interesting to see how they address the problems Clay Shirkey in his article A Group Is It's Own Worst Enemy. If the way to stave off an implosion is to create an inner sanctum, how do you think a group that's already invitiation only (but will probably go normal signup soon) will manage this?

Links from April 2003:

Links added February 2004:

A quick Google for Orkut turns up:

as the #4 link. I guess this is a popular idea.

And a follow up Orkut threads on JoS

Found Orkut (the guy) on Orkut:

page first created on Monday, February 09, 2004

© Mark Wieczorek