Friendster: the pioneer in social networking
Friendster was a social networking site that had launched in 2002, a year before MySpace and two years before Facebook. It was founded in Mountain View, California by Jonathan Abrams and Peter Chin who had named it to closely resemble Napster, the music sharing website. The website gave their users a way to interact with friends through a virtual world, and show users that they could be connected to other members by six degrees of separation or less.
In 2002, there were three million users that had registered to be part of this new phenomenon. Google had offered to buy Friendster a year later for $30,000,000 because of the increase and popularity of the user base, however it was declined. According to Associated Press, Friendster’s decision to stay private rather than sell to Google was one “the biggest blunders of Silicon Valley”. Friendster had opened the door for other social networking sites, demonstrating to them that with the right idea that they would gain quick success by connecting them to old friends and help them make new ones. However, in 2004 Friendster’s success was quickly outnumbered by MySpace and had more competition from other sites that had aspired to replicate their success, such as Yahoo!360 and Hi5.
As years went by, Friendster had difficulty keeping up with the numbers of other social networking sites and dropped in usage in the U.S. Nevertheless, in 2008 it was said that 115 million members were registered and that number was still growing in Asia. In 2009 Friendster was acquired by MOL Global (an Asian internet business) for $26.4 million. By mid 2011, Friendster members had their profiles removed from the website, and the site was redone to reflect a site for social gaming.
Why did Friendster lose its momentum with its success? Here are a few possibilities:
- It was one of the first popular social networking sites, therefore competitor sites that took the same concept were able to improve their user experience by learning from Friendster’s flaws.
- An individual’s profile was the main focus of the user’s experience
- Competitors found ways to make the experience less isolated and had home pages that allowed users to be more interactive with their connections
- The site didn’t have a target audience or lacked organization to show that it had one, therefore they had a harder time recruiting more members and retaining them without understanding the outreach that was needed
- By the time the site had increased its user functions and worked somewhat on the technology that it had lacked previously, other social networking sites had quickly overtaken its popularity.
Schiffman, Betsy. “In Praise of Friendster.” Wired, 9 May 2008. Web. 11 November 2011
Rivlin, Gary. “Wallflower in the Web Party.” New York Times. 15 October 2006. Web. 9 November 2011
Arrlington, Michael. “Friendster Valued At Just 26.4 Million In Sale.” TechCrunch. 15 December 2009. Web. 12 November 2011
Liedtke, Michael. “As values rise, high-tech entrepreneurs grapple with build-or-sell dilemma.” USA Today. 22 February 2007. Web. 12 November 2011
Press Release, Friendster. “Friendster Is The #1 Social Network for Adults and Youth In Malaysia.” Pressreleasepoint.com. 30 June 2009. Web. 11 November 2011