Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is India heading towards the biggest virtual migration? - Part I

We Love Opportunities

Migration is an intrinsic part of human nature. We have, historically, migrated to various parts of the world for various reasons ranging from opportunities to war. Wikipedia defines human migration as: a physical movement by humans from one area to another, sometimes over long distances or in large groups.

However, a virtual migration is slightly different - it happens over the web. One just needs to create a username and password on a new website and stop using the current one. Again, innovative & distinguished features of the website and social pressure are the two main factors that fuel virtual migrations - much like the physical migrations.

Why India

This post talks about India for one obvious reason: its population. Today only 8.4% of Indian population has internet access; still, India has around 100 million internet users. With just 50% internet penetration, the usage will shoot to 600 million users. The size of the market in India is huge and the opportunities for online revenues are endless.

A brief History of Social Networking

The world around us changed in 2002 when Friendster was launched - the social world around us had become virtual, for the very first time. Friendster, therefore, could safely be considered as the grandfather of social networking. 

Just a year later, Myspace was launched in 2003. Certainly, it was Myspace that truly revolutionized social networking among teenagers and young adults. It soon became a hosting place of millions of gaudy homepages. In 2005, Myspace had over 27 million users and a 400% growth since the last year. 

Given Myspace's unprecedented success, who would have thought of its demise as a social media superpower. But, it happened; and it happened a lot sooner than expected. On Sep 26, 2006, Facebook opened its door for the general public - to everyone of age 13 and older.

What Facebook provided to its users was a new, clean, and fresh user interface. Facebook provided a clean white "wall" for status updates. The new Facebook look soon won over the immature, gaudy, garish, and sometimes repulsive - full of intimate pictures - Myspace homepages. Facebook also provided more mechanisms for collaboration over Myspace pages. With smart features such as: Wall, Chat, Photos, Groups, Events, Games, and Applications, in a well designed user interface, Facebook overthrew Myspace from its number one spot in 2008.

For some unknown reasons - perhaps, a topic of anthropological research - Facebook remained less popular in big developing countries such as India and Brazil during 2006 - 2009.

The choice of Social Networking platform by users is, somewhat, mystical. It is largely based on the preference of the masses - and, not you as a person. Back in 2006, when I created my Facebook profile in India, I had nobody to talk to. All my friends were hanging out on Orkut. Ultimately, I had to abandon Facebook and join Orkut. At that time, users in India and Brazil were going crazy over Orkut - a social networking service by Google.

Orkut was created by a Google engineer - Orkut Büyükökten, and launched by Google to general public in 2004. Only three years later, in 2007, according to comScore social media statistics, Facebook had only 7.1% usage compared to Orkut's 43.0% from Asia Pacific region (primarily from India).

But, the change happened in India - finally. Orkut lost its number one status. For the first time, in July 2010, Facebook surpassed Orkut to become number one social media site in India. According to comScore: visitor growth to was up 167 percent in September 2010 versus year ago reaching 24.3 million visitors, with Orkut witnessing a 19-percent increase to 18.7 million visitors. In year 2010, Facebook witnessed the third biggest 228.28% growth in India, just behind Thailand (259.60%) and Brazil (270.01%).

Google Plus - A New Kid on the Block

Currently, Facebook has amassed more than 30 million user in India. India is the third largest user of Facebook as social media platform, just behind USA and Indonesia.

The migration of users from Orkut to Facebook, in India, was certainly a great - but widely unnoticed - event. Had it been a physical human migration, it would have leapfrogged all migrations till date in human history.

With the arrival of Google Plus, are we going to witness another great virtual migration of users from Facebook to Google Plus?

I strongly feel that users in India will certainly migrate to Google Plus in the coming months. I will be discussing number of reasons to support my argument in Part II - Why Google Plus Will Click in India of the series on Google Plus.


  1. Some interesting statistics. It is really intriguing to note how Orkut was the mainstay not very long ago. Another trend that does not get much mention is the adoption of LinkedIn in India. Many (Indian as well as global) professional networking sites came in but that exodus has not happened yet.
    With Google Plus, I personally had a lot more expectation about it really ushering in the Social Networking 2.0 where people utilize their social connections to 'do things' and not just chit chat.
    Also unlike Facebook, Google plus does not integrate so well with real life, e.g. the discussion coming alive with intelligent notifications, sharing a link just blurbs the right snippet of text etc. The quality of interaction in Facebook is quite high in engagement & most importantly entertainment....Google+ has a long way to go

  2. I always have high hopes with any Google products but with Wave and Buzz i was disappointed. Google plus is very new and difficult to judge at this point. The credit goes to Faceboook or coming along this far. Historically all the social media sites have gone dead in 3-4 years. Google has potential to get it done, so let's wait and see what all changes in coming years!!!!

  3. @Kaushik: Although, Google+ is far away from being perfect, it seems to be heading in the right direction. Google definitely have worked on some of the Facebook's shortcomings by introducing Circles and Hangouts. Of course, they have a long way to go.

  4. @Denil: I will be surprised if Google could not leverage its massive user base to become number one force in social media. Of course, Google had failures in the past, but they definitely have learnt a lot from both Wave and Buzz. If nothing else, Google Plus has definitely created some serious competition for Facebook.