Amid Facebook data theft row, Orkut says ‘Hello’ to India in a new avatar

At a time when there have been calls for #DeleteFacebook, amid the Cambridge Analytica scandal and data theft concerns, Orkut Buyukkokten, an ex-Googler and founder of the once-popular, has launched ‘Hello’, a new mobile-first social network.

Based on the concept of building networks around communities, ‘Hello’ forms interest groups of people synced by what they like and are passionate about. The app, fully operational only in Brazil at present, was in the beta-testing mode in India until its launch on April 11.

How ‘Hello’ works: When you sign up on the Hello app, you are asked to choose 5 things that you are passionate about. Once you have selected your interest groups, you can form a network along with people who share your interests.

No intrusive advertisements? Although advertising on the app will be based on user engagement, Orkut Buyukkokten has assured that the social network will be non-intrusive and every advertiser will have a profile on hello for greater accountability. You will also have the option to mute or opt out of seeing advertisements.

Data breach concerns: Facebook recently admitted that nearly 562,999 people in India were “potentially affected” by its global data breach involving Cambridge Analytica. Against this backdrop, it will be a daunting for the San Francisco-based Hello Network Inc to re-assure users that no user information would be shared with third-party apps.

How is Hello different from others? The app looks just like any other community-based social network that holds discussion on various topics and allows users to host or join them. Asked about what would make the Hello app different from all others, Buyukkokten said: “We designed ‘Hello’ to help you make connections in the real world. It’s a social network built on loves, not likes. And I’m delighted to say ‘Hello’ to India once again.”

No selling of user data: Buyukkokten also said the company “does not have to sell user data to get revenues”. It would be interesting to see if the company maintains the same level of confidence as the user count increases many times over.

Will it work? While the app surely promises a lot, it will have a long daunting task as it moves to increase the number of users to be able to become a successful community network. The app has just come out of the beta stage in India. Though it is worth a try, not everyone might see it as a cool alternative to Facebook.