Google’s Orkut shuts down today. Farewell to Brazil and India’s former favorite network

Before there was Google+, there was Orkut. Google’s first attempt at connecting the masses (after it failed to buy Friendster in 2003) worked out about as well as its current effort: On Tuesday the search giant shut down Orkut, reminding people in the United States that, oh yeah, Orkut was a thing once.

The social application, which allowed users to create networks around particular topics, will be missed more abroad then in the country it started in. For about half a decade, Orkut was a top social network in India and Brazil. Marissa Mayer, speaking to Charlie Rose in 2009, said, “If you go to those countries, they often think that Orkut owns Google. And you talk to people in Brazil, they’re like, oh, Google, you mean the subsidiary of Orkut?” But with Facebook’s expansion abroad, Orkut started losing ground in these territories and [company]Facebook[/company] became the fastest-growing social network.

Despite its ultimate failure, the cultural impact of Orkut is still being felt in India and Brazil: Take a look at Google News’ links to stories about Orkut shutting down. Silicon Valley has barely covered the topic, but a plethora of Indian business publications penned substantial eulogies, tracking the life and times of the now defunct network.

From the early days to its current Google+ struggles, there’s very little debate that [company]Google[/company] missed the social wave. That failure hasn’t made a dent in the company’s health — yet — since its ad business is still incredibly lucrative and it has diversified into a bunch of other industries.

As Google closes the door on Orkut, one question remains: When will Google+ see the same fate?