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Blogs > Office Jotter

Orkut, and Quora
Roger Whitehead By: Roger Whitehead, Director, Office Futures
Published: 2nd January 2011
Copyright Office Futures © 2011

Quora: What did Marissa Mayer mean when she said that Orkut failed because of “infrastructure issues”

This is a follow-up question to Why haven’t major companies like Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo succeeded at social networking?

Both questions are interesting, as are the replies. So, too, is the forum on which they have been asked.

Google’s disjointed activities in social networking are, I imagine, a source of embarrassment for the company. I hope they are because it might consequently start giving the matter some serious attention.

About 18 months ago, my colleague, Carl Potter, and I asked Google UK’s analyst relations people if Google would be willing to take part in a survey we were running about enterprise social networking. They responded by asking why we thought Google should be included in the report and if we saw Google as “a player in the social networking space”.

This was bemusing, as even then Google was active in the ‘space’ with Friend Connect and Google Moderator, as well as Orkut and, of course, Blogger. It was a public supporter of the social standards OAuth, OpenID and OpenSocial. Wave was on the way. So, too, was Buzz.

As is well known, not all these were successes but it would still be hard to argue that Google was inactive in social networking at the time. Perhaps its AR people were stalling or being disingenuous, possibly under orders.

Carl and I will probably do another, related survey this year. I look forward to seeing how Google responds this time.


The context for the questions at the head of this post is as worth looking at as their content. I found Quora a couple of weeks ago and have been impressed with the quality of the material on it and the civilised tone. Informed, informative and well-mannered debate is sadly difficult to find on the Internet.

Quora comes across to me as a technically-biased and faster version of The Guardian’s Notes & Queries. (That, in turn, is based on a scholarly journal of the same name established over 150 years ago.)

GigaOM interviewed Charlie Cheever, one of Quora’s founders, in January 2010. Two months later, Techcrunch interviewed Cheever and Adam D’Angelo, another of its founders.

Neither there nor in the company’s one press release is there anything about how it proposes to make money. This is, however, a question asked and, sort of, answered within Quora itself.

I don’t believe such a clever group of people will have gone into the project, or got funding, without clearer answers in mind. Time will no doubt reveal more.


Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
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