A long, long time ago, way before the creation of copycats like MySpace or Facebook, there was Friendster, a social networking site launched by Jonathan Abrams and Peter Chin nine years ago today. And while the website has become something of a joke in recent years (particularly in business school classrooms), at the time it was insanely popular, gaining three million users within the first few months, and subsequently, a $30 million buyout offer from Google, which was declined in the hope of eventual billions. There were even spin-off sites. Remember Dogster? Or Elfster?
In 2004, Time Magazine named Friendster one of its “50 Coolest Websites,” praising it as a better alternative to sifting through “anonymous profiles” on dating sites. That same year Chuck Klosterman gushed in Esquire , “…there’s something inescapably sticky about Friendster, and it’s purely linguistic: the word itself. For reasons that remain unclear, it’s somehow pleasurable to say the word Friendster aloud. It’s like combining friend with monster. I am certain that the selection of the word Friendster is the single biggest key to its success, because eventually you need to join Friendster just to keep referencing it in conversation. And once you make that commitment, it’s over. For the next forty-eight to seventy-two hours, you think of nothing else. Friendster is both instantly and temporarily addictive, which is part of the reason it reminds me of being alive. I feel the same way about 90 percent of the women I’ve ever met.”
Today the first modern social network’s popularity has plummeted from a rank of 40 to 800 on Alexa.com, and the site — which was acquired by MOL Global, one of Asia’s biggest Internet companies, in 2009 — has turned its focus toward becoming more of an online payments platform. Whether or not this strategy will work or not, only time can tell.