Google's other social networking site, Orkut, which has been around for about seven years and has tens of millions of users worldwide, will continue to operate alongside the new Google+ for now.
However, Google is leaving its options open regarding the possibility of fusing the two through some sort of integration further down the road.
"Orkut and Google+ are different products, and will both exist. Over time, we'll determine what makes the most sense in terms of integrating these products," a Google spokeswoman said, when asked what the future holds for Orkut.
At this point, it's not clear whether Google will provide a mechanism for Orkut users to export their friends list and profile data to Google+, or add Google+ privacy features to Orkut.
With Google+, the company is hoping to make a run at Facebook with a social networking site whose privacy features are tighter and easier to configure. Google is betting that while Facebook is the dominant player in social networking, enough of its users feel uneasy about its privacy controls that they would be willing to switch to a rival that offered them an improvement in that area.
In its design, Orkut, launched in 2004, is generally similar to social networking sites of that generation, including Facebook, MySpace and Friendster. Orkut ranks in the 102 spot in Alexa.com's list of most popular websites in the world, but most of its users are concentrated in two countries: India and Brazil.
As the Google+ project shows, Google clearly felt that it needed to create a new social networking site from scratch in order to give Facebook a run for its money in the US and around the world.
It will be interesting to see if the company opts to continue operating the two sites in parallel in the long term, or whether having Orkut becomes strategically contradictory as Google preaches its new privacy approach with Google+.
The good news for users of Orkut is that there seem to be no imminent plans to shut it down. "We will continue to invest in the product," the spokeswoman wrote.
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