Two stories today from the realm of social media.
First, the biggest social media platform that you never heard of is shutting down. That’s Google’s Orkut. Never heard of Orkut. That’s OK; it was sort of the Boxcar Willie of social media — it was huge overseas, if not here:
Google’s oldest social network, Orkut, is finally saying the long goodbye. On Monday the Orkut blog announced that Google will end support for the decade-old service on Sept. 30. If you’ve ever used Orkut, it’s time to trudge to Google Takeout—sometime before September 2016—and get your data out of there….
When Orkut gained Google Plus integration in 2012, it seemed like a sign that the end might be coming. But if you never used Orkut and aren’t feeling a wave of nostalgia, it’s because the service was never that big in the United States. In Brazil and India, on the other hand, it was a most-trafficked website for years. Now YouTube and, of course, Google Plus will be Google’s social focus. At least in death Orkut probably won’t be the butt of everyone’s mid-2000s jokes. Ahem, Myspace.
Orkut was actually started a month before Facebook. But what a different fate! Facebook has now become so big, so sure of itself, that it thought it could get away with conducting psychological experiments on its users without telling them. From The Guardian:
Facebook’s second most powerful executive, Sheryl Sandberg, has apologised for the conduct of secret psychological tests on nearly 700,000 users in 2012, which prompted outrage from users and experts alike.
The experiment, revealed by a scientific paper published in the March issue of Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, hid “a small percentage” of emotional words from peoples’ news feeds, without their knowledge, to test what effect that had on the statuses or “likes” that they then posted or reacted to.
“This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated,” said Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer while in New Delhi. “And for that communication we apologise. We never meant to upset you.”
The statement by Sandberg, deputy to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, is a marked climbdown from its insistence on Tuesday that the experiment was covered by its terms of service. The secret tests mean that the company faces an inquiry from the UK’s information commissioner, while the publishers of the paper have said they will investigate whether any ethics breach took place. Psychological tests on human subjects have to have “informed consent” from participants – but independent researchers and Facebook have disagreed on whether its terms of service implicitly cover such use…
In case you doubt whether Facebook is really, really sorry, check out this photo of Ms. Sandberg shrugging. Which may or may not reassure you…