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Google debuts Friendster-clone Orkut

Will you be my friend?

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Exclusive Google will shortly unveil its social networking site, Orkut. The Friendster clone is the work of Google employee and former Stanford graduate Orkut Buyukkokten.

Undetered by the feeding frenzy around the social networking bubble, and rebuffed by Friendster Inc, which it attempted to buy, Google has decided to build one better. Given Friendster's well-documented problems with coping with a large number of users, and Google's world class expertise in scalability, it ought to be more than up to the technical challange. But will it pay?

A tsunami of VC money poured into social networking start-ups last year, although how the companies themselves monetize the users is far from clear. "How many people will pay even $10 or even $5 a month, when they have access to their Outlook Express inbox for free?" Andrew Cornu, CEO of the successful dating network FriendFinder, wondered here last November. Other would-be social networking ventures decided against simply cloning Friendster, such as the Hot Or Not spin-off moblog, Yafro.

Google has attempted to play down the relationship with Orkut, although each page is branded "in affiliation with Google." The Privacy Policy notes "We may share information that you submit and any non-personally identifiable information we collect with Google, Inc. and agents of orkut in accordance to the terms and conditions of this Privacy Policy," according an FAQ on the site. Fix that recursion!

If you must, you can go and start networking here. You'll need an invitation from an existing member. ®

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