You’re not always the same person. Why should it be any different on the web?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 | 2:32 PM

Imagine Sarah, a 21 year old girl who just created an orkut profile. To get started, she adds her college friends to her friend list. They share photos, join communities, exchange scraps, discuss everything that's hot on campus. A few days later Sarah finds out that some friends from high school are also on orkut and adds them: what's better than keeping in touch with old friends?

Then Sarah gets her first job and adds her office colleagues to orkut: you can't decline a friend request from your boss, can you? Sarah's social network keeps growing. Even her parents, aunts, uncles and cousins are on orkut, and she adds them to her friend list.

The college gang, old friends from high school, office colleagues, family, everyone is in Sarah's friend list now. Soon enough she will not be able to share anything with anyone anymore - after all, jokes and photos from the office party should be shared only with her work colleagues. Scraps and photos of her baby nephew at the family reunion should only be seen by members of her family. The plans for Saturday night and the photos of the parties she went to should be seen only by her party friends - Sarah does not want her boss or her young cousin to see those.

Just like Sarah, we all maintain different groups of friends, and the Internet was not able to reflect that. Until now, social networks treated people from different groups like they were all the same: they were all "friends".

So we asked ourselves: does it need to work this way on the Internet? Can we reproduce our groups of friends from real life on the Internet? The answer is "yes!" Starting today, we will change the core function of orkut so we can share and interact with different groups of friends on the Internet just like we do in real life:

Like that? Then visit this page to see an overview of this big orkut launch or see below for all the new features:

Scraps to multiple people
Now you can send scraps to your friends straight from your homepage in orkut. And more: you can send the same scrap to many people at the same time or even to all your friends. That's right: no more copy and paste!

Privacy in groups
You can choose the privacy level you want for your messages. For instance, you can send a private scrap to a group of four people and only those four people can see it and reply to it. If they reply, you guys will have a private, group conversation visible only to you and those four friends. If you prefer going public, just send a scrap visible to all your friends or even send a public scrap so everyone in orkut can see it. It's your choice.

Groups of friends
To make it easier for you to interact with your groups of friends, now you can open them from your homepage. Your groups will always be a click away from you, on the top of the page. When you click a group (for example, "college friends"), you'll see updates, photos, videos and activities only from people who are part of that group. If you want to write them something, the scrap editor will automatically select everyone in the group and the privacy will be set to "Private" so you can share information that is relevant to that group only. And, of course, you can change that privacy setting before sending the message.

We know that sometimes we invite someone from work to a family party or we bring a gym friend to the office happy hour. That means: sometimes our groups of friends mix together. Thinking of this, you can easily add or remove as many people as you want from the recipients of a scrap.

Oh, and yes, remember that the groups are yours only. Nobody else will know the names of your groups of friends. When you send something to the entire group, people will know who else can see the message, but they will not know the name you chose for the group within your orkut. Also, you can change and edit your groups whenever you want, the way you want it!

Groups formed automagically!
You can create your groups of friends manually. However, as you know, here at Google we love simplifying tough problems to make people's lives better. Thinking of this we came up with the "automagic groups": Based on your interactions, orkut automatically suggests some groups of friends for you, and these suggested groups will be ready for you to use. Also, you can add your personal touch to your groups at anytime and make them any way you want.

Because new friendships usually come along with time, orkut will also suggest new members for your groups over the time, so they are always up-to-date with minimum work from you.

More news and what's to come

Birthdays: we're also improving the way birthdays appear in your page, and you can send your friends birthday wishes without leaving your homepage. You'll also be able to interact with other people who are also sending them happy birthdays and celebrate your friend's birthday with them. And remember: if the idea is to organize a surprise party, don't forget to send a private scrap to your friends ;-)

Friend Suggestions: we will always be improving the friend suggestions, and these suggestions will be part of your updates, moving down in your page along the day, just like any other update. When we've a brand new, really good suggestion, we will bring it to the top again.

Fortune of The Day and Recent Visitors will also appear every day as activities, scrolling down as new updates from your friends come in.

Games and Applications: millions of people are playing with and using applications in orkut every day. In the period of two months, more than 6 million people created cafes in CafeMania and 36 million people manage their Farms, all on orkut's game applications. To make accessing games and applications easier, now you can find them in your homepage, right below your communities. Not to mention, applications also have new pages now.

Communities: Orkut communities are a great way for people to expand their groups of friends and know other people who share the same interests, support the same team or want to know more about a place or event. A few days ago we started testing a new platform to support orkut communities, and soon we will release it to everyone.

If these changes are not visible for you yet, don't worry, over the next few days everyone will enjoy these new features.

Is there more to come? Absolutely! So buckle up and have fun :-)

Posted by Victor Ribeiro, orkut product management director