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Orkut Büyükkökten: The Man Behind the Social Network

Orkut Büyükkökten: The Man Behind the Social Network

Orkut Büyükkökten is a Turkish software engineer who developed the social networking services Club Nexus, inCircle and Orkut. He is a former product manager at Google and the founder of Hello, a new social networking service launched in 2016. In this blog post, we will explore his life, career and achievements.

Early life and education

Orkut Büyükkökten was born on February 6, 1975 in Konya, Turkey. He completed his high school education at Konya Meram Anadolu Lisesi and his undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering and Information Science at Bilkent University in Ankara. He then moved to the United States to pursue his master’s and doctoral degrees in Computer Science at Stanford University. His research at Stanford focused on Web search and efficient PDA usage.

Social networking pioneer

Büyükkökten has been building and working on online communities since 2000. He introduced his first social network, named Club Nexus, at Stanford in the fall of 2001. Club Nexus was the first college-specific social network, which allowed students to send e-mail and invitations, chat, post events, buy and sell used goods, search for people with similar interests, place personals, display their artwork or post editorial columns. Within a few months of its introduction in 2001, Club Nexus had attracted over 2,000 Stanford undergraduates.

Later, Büyükkökten introduced an alumni social network, named inCircle, for the Stanford Alumni Association intended for use by university alumni groups. In 2002, he launched a company, Affinity Engines, to commercialize inCircle and Club Nexus.

Orkut: The most popular social network in Brazil and India

After leaving Affinity Engines and joining Google, he decided to use his 20% time to develop a social networking service. He said: “My dream was to connect all the Internet users so they can relate to each other, it can make such a difference in people’s lives.” The product manager and Marissa Mayer thought of naming the service after its creator. “Orkut.com” belonged to Orkut Büyükkökten himself. Google convinced him, and its social networking service was called Orkut.

Orkut was launched in January 2004 as an invitation-only service. It quickly became one of the most popular social networks in the world, especially in Brazil and India, where it had millions of users. Orkut allowed users to create profiles, join communities, send messages, share photos and videos, play games and more. It also had features such as testimonials, crush lists and fan clubs.

Orkut faced some challenges such as lawsuits from Affinity Engines for trade secret misappropriation, censorship from some governments for hosting controversial content, spamming and phishing attacks from hackers and cybercriminals, and competition from other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Despite these difficulties, Orkut remained active until September 2014, when Google decided to shut it down and focus on other products.

Hello: A new social network based on passions

In 2016, Büyükkökten launched a new social networking service, Hello. Hello is based on the idea of connecting people through their passions. Users can choose from over 100 personas (such as photographer, gamer, traveler or foodie) and join communities of like-minded people. They can also create posts, send messages, play games and earn coins that can be used to unlock features or donate to causes.

Hello is designed to be more positive, authentic and respectful than other social networks. It has a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech, bullying and harassment. It also uses artificial intelligence to filter out spam and inappropriate content. Hello aims to create a more meaningful and fun online experience for its users.

Hello was initially available in three languages: English, French and Portuguese. By August 2016, Hello was available in the US, Canada, France, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Brazil — both on iOS and Android. Hello announced its entry into the Indian market in April 2018. However, by September 2022, Hello had shut down due to lack of funding and user engagement.

Orkut Büyükkökten is a visionary software engineer who has contributed significantly to the development of social networking services. He has created platforms that have connected millions of people around the world through their interests, passions and friendships. He has also faced challenges such as legal disputes, censorship issues and market competition. He continues to pursue his dream of making the Internet a better place for everyone.

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Mark Schierbecker

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