Orkut, Google's own social network

I first read it on Jeremy Zawodny's blog, "Watch out Friendster, here comes Google's Orkut", that a new service has been set up by Google to compete against ever-so-popular Friendster. From this The Register story, Orkut is set up by a Google employee, with "in affiliation with Google" on every page, even though Google has been tight-lipped about it. I am pretty sure that Google's expertise on scalability can help Orkut to become one of the biggest on-line social community. Performance and responsiveness has certainly been an issue of Friendster lately.

It gets me wondering, what would Google do with this social network community? How is Orkut part of Google's strategy in becoming one of the biggest portal on the Internet? In what way would Google use data collected from Orkut in its own search result? Part of PR for IPO?

Orkut is also different from Friendster in how you can participate. Basically you cannot just fill a form and sign up for membership, but the registration is by invitation only. So... <Cough cough> Is there any friend out there that can get me in? :)

Updated 24 Jan 2004: Here's a coverage on Slashdot. Sounds like there is an initial of 12,000 invites as the seed. Do they pick the initial invites randomly?

And here's some people's impression on Orkut so far: