It’s perhaps the best time to launch a social media company – with all the scrutiny about user data privacy and transparency of social media companies.
However, one social media pioneer, doesn’t believe so. Orkut Buyukkokten, the eponymous founder of pioneering social media network Orkut, has launched a new social network called Hello Network.
Hello Network, according to Buyukkokten, is built for a new age mobile generation and is bringing back the community culture on social media where people can connect to each other based on mutual interests.
The app was first launched in May 2016 and for the past few months was in a beta testing mode in India. The fledgling network says it has 35,000 beta users in India.
“Social media brings anxiety, depression. It’s not a happy place anymore. There is an element of body shaming and so much vitriol on social media nowadays. It’s about fake moments and about having fans,” Buyukkoten told TheBigScope, adding that social media has changed a lot since the days of Orkut and over the years has moved away from the basic tenets of connecting people.
Orkut was created in 2004 by Buyukkoten, who was then working for Google. The social media network soon became one of the most used networks in countries like India and Brazil. Google eventually pulled the plug on the network in 2014.
With Hello, Buyukkoten hopes to make social media a more positive place and weed out negativity and fake news through its Karma program. “We have a human focus design around reputation systems which is called Karma. Every user has a Karma level on our app. The level will vary according to what they share and how relevant that content is,” explains Buyukkoten, who says Hello will use a mix of machine learning , physical personnel and customer care to remove bots, fake accounts and malicious content.
Hello Network will also have a system of meaningful ads which is aligned to user likes and dislikes. “Forceful ads will not come the users way and rather depending on what the users like and dislike. We will tie with say a famous shoe brand and show them ads around discount on shoes and nothing else,” says Buyukkoten.
They also have virtual currency called Hello Coins for users to buy new features. Some of the features allow users to use Hello Coins to be anonymous. The Hello coins are available for Rs. 65 per coin and more coins can be earned through other tasks in the network.
But when asked about data privacy of users and how they will stop manipulation of targeted ads, he pointed out that most social media companies are responsible for misusing data of users.
Buyukkoten says Hello do not share user data at any costs with other services and also do not track users across the rest of internet even when they are logged out of their account. “You have legitimate content and posts your Karma will increase and we will not prioritize brands and shareholders over our user.”
Buyukkokten is betting big on the Indian market despite the current concerns around data privacy and security. He wants to target the millions of Indians who will use a smartphone and internet connection for the first time. “We have started with English but will move into other regional languages like Kanada, Marathi among others and moving further on, we will even allow users to use a lighter version of our app in areas where there is low network connectivity.”