Entrepreneur’s idea helps connect people

Entrepreneur’s idea helps connect people: A UK article on Friendster.

Entrepreneur’s idea helps connect people
American website which brings couples together ready to take the UK by storm, writes CAMERON SIMPSON
FINDING the right person or just making a new friend has never been easy, especially in the fast-living twenty-first century.

People have increasingly turned to the online community to broaden their social circle. But the anonymity of the internet has deterred many – that is until now.

A simple idea by one man to help people meet new friends is sweeping the US and is about to take a big broom to the UK.

Since being launched in March, www.friendster.com – a social networking community for the purposes of dating or making new friends – has gained a huge following. In just four months, it has more than a million users and is rapidly attracting people in Britain, 13,800 at the last count.

Jonathan Abrams, a 33-year-old entrepreneur from Toronto, working from his living room in Silicon Valley, California, with a staff of five, came up with the idea after his last relationship ended and he found the prospect of meeting people through the internet “creepy”.

“I was doing more partying, hanging out with friends. I noticed people were talking a lot about online dating services. I looked at those sites, and everybody is anonymous or random. I found it very creepy.”

Putting his own programming skills to work, he created a website that allows people to meet other people through their friends.

“Like real life. I showed it to my friends, and they loved it.”

Mr Abrams combined two of the biggest internet fads of recent years – file-sharing networks made famous by Napster and its subsequent copycats, and reunion websites, such as Friends Reunited in Britain – and combined them into a single concept.

Friendster Inc, his company, utilises the mythology of six degrees of separation. You create a profile and list your interests, hobbies, favourite films, TV shows, books, and then invite your friends to join. Once the connection is made, your friends’ friends are added to your list of computer contacts and your friends’ friends’ friends, and so on. Then you can see the friends of his friends who are on Friendster, and the friends of his friends of his friends, and so on.

Soon there is the potential to have thousands of potential friends or dates. But where online dating services introduce people to others whom they have never met and with whom they have no connection, Friendster allows users to meet through a network of mutual friends. Users can send messages directly to other Friendsters, or ask their friends to make an introduction.

It makes online cruising relatively safe and stigma-free – especially important in the UK where internet dating does not enjoy the same level of respectability that it does in the US.

Christian, 32, single, from San Francisco, who is a member of friendster.com, said: “We all know meeting people out in the wild is a risky proposition. With Friendster, you meet people through people you already know and trust. So it’s like having an infinite social network.”

Another Friendster devotee, Zoila, 32, single, from Sunnyvale, California, said: “I was invited to join Friendster by a friend and found it to be a great way and a fun way to meet new people and to network.

“Your friends know you best and maybe they can help you in meeting new friends or even a potential mate. Being on Friendster helps you break the ice and makes it a simpler process in meeting people.”

Mr Abrams, a former senior software engineer with browser pioneer Netscape Communications, said yesterday: “The UK is our fourth country, after the US, Canada and Malaysia. We have 13,800 members in the UK. I believe we have a lot of users in London now. I hope Friendster does take off in the UK.”

While people meet through the internet, Friendster also throws parties. The first was held in San Francisco where Mr Abrams got close to his friend Brenda, who was a host at the party.

One internet commentator said: “While this can obviously be used as a sort of censored dating system, it’s actually incredibly addictive just to spend time surfing about to see who your friends know and what everyone thinks.

“It’s much more personal than your typical contact site as you can actually provide comments about your friends which show up when people look at their profile.”

– July 28th

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