Apparently in a move to help maintain the sites popularity in the two regions where Google is seen as a major social player, orkut has decided to add a flavor of Foursquare to the service.
You might have noticed something new in orkut. Some of your friends may have little icons on their profile pages, and you may start seeing some updates from friends as well. These are our new orkut badges!
Badges are another way for you to express yourself on orkut, with different sets of badges for users that engage with orkut in different ways. For example, if you’ve been on orkut for a long time, you might get an Early User badge! Or, if you created a popular promotion, you might get a Promoter badge. Once you win a badge, it’s up to you if you want to display it on your profile or not. (Official Orkut Blog)
Note: Emphasis theirs.
Thus far many of these badges seemed geared towards active users on the site (i.e. resharing content, using all of the features, etc.) with a few dedicated towards actually helping the orkut team in some way (note: probably dealing with reporting bugs).
There are a few badges that are a little trickier to unlock (such as the millionaire forum owner badge), but for the most part active users should be able to acquire most of them with little difficulty.
Google is promising to unveil more badges in the future, although only time will tell if badges helps the Mountain View giant popularize its oft forgotten social network outside of India and South America.