Sunday Fun Day Post: The Onion Video of the “Friendster Civilization”

Friendster was one of the first social networking sites, but with it’s lack of technology and platform engagement it soon became outdated and lost it’s members to Myspace and Facebook.

A couple of years ago, The Onion, took the opportunity of Friendster’s downfall, to poke fun of the social networking site’s archaic features. Though many things mentioned are in humor, the gist of the video stands true.

Friendster Founder says ‘It Just Didn’t Work’

“They opened it up to minors, which hadn’t even occurred to me for the legal and safety reasons,” Abrams said. Regardless, “the real reason that Friendster got supplanted by MySpace in the U.S. was that MySpace’s website just worked and Friendster’s didn’t.” Friendster Founder, Jonathan Abrams

Source: LA Times, July 23, 2009

Friendster: A Brief Timeline

Friendster: The Timeline

  • May 2002: Friendster launches.
  • August 2002: Friendster garners 3 million registered users.
  • 2003: Friendster declines Google’s 30-million dollar offer.
  • April 2004: Friendster loses ground to MySpace in terms of page views
  • August 2006: Friendster develops widgets for personal profiles
  • September 2007: Launches Fan Profile pages, four years after MySpace
  • December 2007: Creates localized options for Chinese and Japanese audience
  • May 2008: Mobile site launches, hoping to capture the Asian audience.
  • December 2009: Friendster is sold to MOL Global, one of Asia’s predominant internet companies.
  • 2011: Friendster relaunches as a social gaming networking site.

Summary:
Although Friendster was the first social networking site to make waves, it didn’t develop as effectively as the other networking sites, particularly in the early stages of its life, and ultimately died due to its slow-moving updates and extremely successful competitors.

While Friendster was welcomed with open arms to three million users within months, the site didn’t make crucial upgrades to fit their growing audience. Many users reported major site errors and slow uploading times. Furthermore, the Friendster team neglected to think about the site’s future growth in terms of innovation and usability. In fact, when Google offered to buy Friendster out for 30 million dollars, the Friendster team declined, reportedly looking for a better offer.

However, no other offer was given to Friendster and in only two short years, Friendster had fallen behind, losing their users to MySpace and Facebook.

By 2006, Friendster, who had failed to adapt to new technological updates, was on a downward spiral. While widgets were added and fan profiles of celebrities/brands were created, Friendster’s users had already migrated to MySpace, which was growing at a rapid pace, and Facebook, who had started allowing more college users to sign-up.

In 2009, Friendster was sold to a MOL Global, owned by a Malaysian businessman, and is now a social gaming internet site, which makes sense as its current market is predominantly the Asian youth whose affinity for social gaming knows no boundaries.

Source:
Dybwad, B. (2009). Friendster’s fate: Sold to Malaysian e-commerce giant. Mashable. http://mashable.com/2009/12/09/friendster-deal-final/
Nicole, K. (2007). Friendster finally makes Asian presence official. Mashable. http://mashable.com/2007/12/06/friendster-japan-korea/
(2008). Friendster launches mobile in Asia. Mashable. http://mashable.com/2008/05/20/friendster-mobile-launches-in-asia/
Ostrow, A. (2007). Friendster adds fan profiles. Mashable. http://mashable.com/2007/09/27/friendster-fan-profiles/
Rivlin, G. (2006). Wallflower at a web party. Mashable. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/15/business/yourmoney/15friend.html

Friendster History & Introduction

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.

Sources:

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