Googles Social-Networking Experiment Goes Offline

The search company's social networking experiment, named Orkut after the engineer who developed it, is temporarily down as it undergoes changes.

Google Inc.s experiment with social networking has gone offline—at least for now.

The engineers behind the Web site have taken down the social network in order to make some improvements suggested by users, a Google spokeswoman confirmed on Monday.

The Orkut site is the brainchild of Google engineer Orkut Buyukkokten and went live last week. It raised speculation that Google would enter the rapidly expanding social-networking space with the likes of Friendster Inc., LinkedIn Ltd. and Ryze Ltd.

/zimages/5/28571.gifRead more here about the growing interest in social networking for the enterprise.

But Google has made clear that Orkut is an engineering experiment and not a supported product of the company. Spokeswoman Eileen Rodriguez said that Buyukkokten created the social networking service during the 20 percent of engineers time that Google allots for them to work on their own projects.

The temporary shutdown of the Orkut network appears to have happened over the weekend, when members trying to log on and invitees attempted to sign up received a notice that the site was offline. Unlike other social networks, Orkut requires that members to be invited in order to join.

"Since Orkut is in the very early stages of development, its likely to be up and down quite a bit during the coming months," the posting stated. "None of the information youve entered will be deleted, and none of the connections youve made will be lost."

Rodriguez said that the "small team" of Google engineers working on Orkut with Buyukkokten expected the full site to be up again shortly, though she could not pinpoint when it would be online. The Orkut site, while being affiliated with Google, is hosted outside the company at a collocation facility, Rodriguez said.

Google, of Mountain View, Calif., does turn some of its engineers projects into new products for the company, but that is determined "on a case-by-case basis," Rodriguez said. Googles Froogle shopping search site, which is now in beta, is one example.

"Right now we dont have any specific plans in the social networking space," Rodriguez said.