Google quietly spawns social networking service

With little fanfare or forewarning, Google helped with the launch of a new social networking service, Orkut, on Thursday. reports:

A Google representative said that the site is the independent project of one of its engineers, Orkut Buyukkokten, who works on user interface design for Google. Buyukkokten, a computer science doctoral candidate at Stanford University before joining Google, created in the past several months by working on it about one day a week–an amount that Google asks all of its engineers to devote to personal projects. Buyukkokten, with the help of a few other engineers, developed Orkut out of his passion for social networking services.

Google says that, although affiliated, “the service is not part of Google’s product portfolio at this time.” Google does own the technology, though, so the possibility is certainly there, especially in light of its recent acquisition of Pyra Labs and Blogger.

But guess what? There’s one major catch… Don’t go rushing over there to try it. You have to know someone who’s already a member before you can join!

Guess I’ll have to use one of my other networks to see who I know at Google! Ironic…