Alexa has recently been improving the global coverage of their traffic statistics. Their Global 500 now shows a number of sites that have almost zero attention in the US market (e.g. Baidu, QQ, and Yahoo Japan). Many on this list had a negligible presence on Alexa a year ago, most likely due to their marketing of the Alexa Toolbar in foreign markets.
While I was looking at the list of top 10 global sites, one was extremely startling: Orkut, Google’s social networking service that has been extremely successful in Brazil. Since January of last year, Orkut has grown by a factor of 10, moving from a daily reach of 3,000 to 30,000 per million. Since MySpace’s traffic has been more or less constant over that time period, it’s not surprising that Orkut has covered some major ground towards being the world’s largest social networking service:
Looking more specifically at the race for top ranked social networking service, it appears that the two will be neck and neck from here on out:
Orkut gets no attention in the US market mainly because their US presence is tiny compared to Facebook, MySpace or even Friendster. If they take the number one spot worldwide, will Americans respond? Google paid $900M to be MySpace’s search provider, a partnership that might lead people to believe that their business interest in social networking was diminishing. Another explanation could be their interest in monetizing a mature social networking service while Orkut continues to grow. As the service continues to drive traffic globally, it is inevitable that the press will take notice, and Google can take this opportunity to grow their domestic user base.
I hadn’t logged in to Orkut for years, but upon returning I realized that very little has changed. Same strange photos, same hearts and ice cubes, same periwinkle-and-purple color scheme. Orkut’s growth reinforces the fact that the value of social networking services, and social software in general, comes from the base of active users, not the set of features they offer.