With Google's across-the-board thrust into mobile of late, one piece that seemed to be missing was social networking. That started to change last month with its rollout of the mobile version of Google Buzz, the search giant's social-media sharing platform that lets users send out posts with their exact location.
It continued that effort this week with Google launching an Android widget for Buzz, and more interestingly, a version of its Orkut social network for Android phones. Orkut, of course, never gained any traction in the U.S. but became popular in certain other countries, chiefly Brazil and India.
To the extent that Android expands in the markets where Orkut already has a strong user base online, the new Orkut app for Android can help bring those users over to the mobile side and help offset inroads by Facebook. The blog Inside Facebook last summer reported Facebook in the space of two months had doubled its number of users in the two countries, though still trailing well behind Orkut. With a 33% growth rate as of November, the blog predicted Brazil will eventually become the home to the most Facebook users in South America.
So anything Google can do to hold onto existing customers there by creating a seamless mobile extension would make sense. True, Android may have only small penetration in those markets like Brazil and India now, but if the open operating system keeps growing like it has it should gain a stronger foothold in those countries over time.
In Google's post about the new Orkut app, one commenter in Brazil noted that Android is already available through devices including the Motorola Milestone, Dext, Backflip and Quench devices, among others. Underscoring the pressure Orkut is under from the world's biggest social network, he added, "But most people are moving to Facebook now."