Google. Entry by Invitation Only.

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They did it for Gmail. They did it for Google Wave and they have also tried it for the new Orkut (whatever you call the new version of Orkut). Any other service too that I have missed out?

Of course the ‘invite’ system has more of technical reasons for it’s being than Google’s marketing strategies. All these products were primarily opened for the developers to test and report issues pertaining to them. Hence an invitation based account sign up seems to be a fairly good idea.  After all, Google really wants it users to use  almost bug free online applications.

But who want’s to be at the other side of  action? Google knows that. And the invites become a very good marketing tool, even if  they didn’t intended it to be.  It worked really well for Gmail. It was like getting an invitation for a very coveted party. Anyone who got a Gmail id in the early days of it’s launch felt privileged and sending an invite to a friend on his repeated requests was a matter of pride. I don’t mean to undermine the GMail’s technology,which un-doubetdly plays an important role in it’s popularity today but you have to agree that the ‘invites’ did create the needed hype.

GMail is definetly an older issue for now. But the ‘invites’ are back. This time for Google Wave. Google Wave is a great collaboration tool. For those of you who have a little knowledge of Google Wave or it’s working, I’d like to put down a more simpler and a rather non-technical definition. Google Wave is like a message board where a group of people who you allow can post new messages or edit the previous ones as per their convenience from anywhere around the world. With this being a special message board you can always go back in time, to see how did the current state shape up. It’s really like an  Real Time Conference. The simple looking idea has a broad spectrum of  applications. You could plan your next outing with your friends, draft an office presentation with your group members, connect with old friends, the list is in fact endless.

What happens here is that the invites do not serve as a very good marketing tool. That’s mainly because Google Wave doesn’t make sense unless you have a bulk of your contacts using it. Now what the situation has been in most cases that the invites were distributed in very small number. So even the lucky one’s who got the early invites quickly lost interest in because they had nobody to wave with. The second bunch of invites which came for the excited bunch of people who hadn’t received the invites on the first time. But again that was on an average only 10-15 contacts of your contacts using it. With all the fully functional things like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr etc. online, who do you expect to maintain yet another account for 10-15 people.  All this finally led to a  bunch of in-active people having Google Wave accounts. I might not be entirely right on my judgement but the current state is that the ‘invites’ which are a common entity now, don’t have any takers.

What does that imply? People have lost interest in Google Wave? Or are they patiently waiting for the final release ? Any conclusions at this moment would be unfair. But what seems clear is that the invites are not attracting a lot of users now. It’s not working the way it did for Gmail.

Agreed, that Google Wave was just a preview and was not intended for the public and an invitation based entry is justified to a large extent. But what it has got to do with New Orkut. In fact there has nothing been very special and innovative about the new edition of orkut, that people would die to get an invitation for.  It’s just like having a restricted entry to an event that barely has any audience!

Invitation based sign ups don’t seem to be the best idea to me for seriously testing products online. What’s more they have also started loosing promotional value. What’s your say? Is the invite system best of way testing products? Or it’s more of promotion gimmick than actual development of the software. I would love to hear from you.

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