Odnoklassniki.ru – Russian classmates

I’m always amazed and shaken when ugly things work. I know they often do, but every time it happens, it’s like the first time for me.

There are many examples around, MySpace.com being the most well known. The idea behind it is nice – to provide a place for youngsters to communicate and share pictures and music. But the way it is implemented is truly ugly. Yet, MySpace.com is one of the top visited web sites on the Web.

Odnoklassniki.ru is another example of this. (Odnoklassniki is a Russian word for “classmates”.) Again, the idea was pretty good – create a way for people to find their classmates and all friends easily. 10, 15, 20 years later names and faces tend to fade out and we don’t remember them all that good anymore. So, those of us who want to get re-connected with friends from the old days have some troubles locating those. With Odnoklassniki.ru it becomes pretty easy – pick the region, area, and school or college where you studied, specify the years during which your were there, and you’ll be shown other people who are registered on the web site, who studied at the same place during approximately the same years. Names and pictures are there, and those help a lot.

The way the whole thing is setup is terrible though. First of all, the web site is horribly slow. Always. I’ve been registered there since forever, and I was checking it out once in a while – always slow. Secondly, it tries to be everything – a contact manager, a search engine, people directory, photo sharing and rating service, messenger, forum, and so on. Needless to say, it sucks badly at most of these. There is not a single function that works properly.

But, the main thing is that it works. The web site is very popular in Russia and lots of people register there every day. I myself managed to find and connect with people who I lost and forgotten a long time ago.

When I think about how these things work, this quote comes to mind (from Pirates of Silicon Valley movie):

Steve Jobs: We’re better than you are! We have better stuff.
Bill Gates: You don’t get it, Steve. That doesn’t matter!

New people aren’t anymore

The other day I met a few new people in the bar. Most of them were younger than me, but not all of them had IT-related jobs and hobbies. While we were exchanging contact information, I kept thinking about the technology and how it affects our lives.

15 years ago, when meeting new people name and place of work or address were sufficient. People were asking for a phone number, but not everyone had it. Contacting a person was complicated. Espeically if he didn’t have the phone number (like I). Even if he had a phone number, one had to find out the appropriate hours to call.

10 years ago phones became more widespread. But email was still a new thing for most people. Not everyone had it.

5 years ago mobiles started to jump in. Approrpiate hours became pretty much obsolete – call during the daylight of the timezone in question and you’ll be fine. Email got more common. Instant messengers became popular too.

This year I met a lot of new people. And, although, most of them were from my area, I had a choice of mobile phone, email, and ICQ number to choose from in order to contact them.

That other day though was a totally other story. Everyone called each other on the mobile to save the number. Than we continued with ICQ numbers. Than with blog URLs (many people use LiveJournal these days). A notebook computer appeared out of nowhere and we connected to pub’s free WiFi access point and looked through each other’s blogs and journals. Within 15 minutes or so everyone know a whole lot of everything about each other – hobbies, interests, age, lifestyle, who travelled where and when, etc. We saw a bunch of pictures and even some common friends, although we were from different parts of the world.

When we left from the pub two hours later, I had a feeling that we knew each other pretty good. Missing bits could be easily reconstructed by studing all the available information. Or talking on the Internet. Directly. Any time.

It doesn’t matter anymore where you live. All you need to have is a mobile phone (which supports SMS), instant messenger account (ICQ, MSN, Yahoo! – whatever works for you), and an online journal (standalone blog or LiveJournal or both). Interestingly, it’ll take you less than an hour to get all three. The world is definetely getting smaller…