Category Archives: friendster

Friendster is desperate; viral marketing failed

Friendster realizes that it has lost the attention of its earliest adopters. This morning, Friendster sent a message to a select number of people that they labeled as “SuperFriends.” It’s a usability survey where they are asking for users’ advice on an email campaign. There are four different potential emails that they sent out as screen shots. Here’s a sample one:

Subject: Friendster Now

So you’re working. Who cares? You have a lifetime to work. What you’ll really regret coughing and wheezing on your deathbed is not looking up all the old high-school friends, college buddies, summer camp alums, Burning Man acquaintances and ex’es who are just hoping you reach out and find them. And discovering new hiking partners, book groups and jam band fans. And setting up that person you really would date yourself if you were single. There’s oh so much to do.

Seriously, you should go to Burning Man. It’s pretty cool. The jam band stuff we understand if you’re not into. We just needed an example there.


Oh, to make sure you keep getting these vaguely sarcastic emails, please add Friendster to your email address book now. If for no other reason than it will look cool to have Friendster in your address book.

The tone of these messages is desperate, begging for attention of the original early adopters – the ones that Abrams told me were ruining his system. One focuses on Burning Man types; one mocks the old Power Point COO; one charges non-users with harming children; one is a desperate love poem. They’re hyper American-centric, SF-centric, white collar, wannabee hipster, intentionally attempting sarcasm (and clarifying that below) and complete with 80s references.

I guess Friendster isn’t happy with the majority of its users being young and from Asia. Does this mean that Friendster has its tail between its legs about its early egotistical behavior? Apparently, viral marketing isn’t working well enough anymore.

Anyhow, you *have* to read the full message that these SuperFriends got (included in the full message). It has had me ROFL for hours.

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Friendster’s plethora of high school students

Recently, i’ve been getting lots of SMS-style emails from people about Friendster. Usually, this means that they’re teens. So, i went in and did a search in Friendster for ages 61-71 in California with pictures within 3 degrees. Almost 1000 hits. Doing the same search in Singapore, i found over 600 hits. All teens.

They’re all underage (and it seems as though the most popular age to choose these days is 69). What surprises me is the emergence of Fakester High Schools (in order to collect all of those from the same HS). I’m stunned that Friendster was so vigilant in going after Fakesters because it was ruining search and they weren’t viable customers, but they ignore the Fakesters that could open them up to hefty legal suits.

I also got a great report from Singapore that students are creating images of their HS teachers to write testimonials about how horrible they are. Looking at a few of them, interests include things like “Shouting at ppl, Confiscating balls especially soccer balls, Catch students who are late for school.” Testimonials include things like “_|_ u sux! may ur dick not be wif u!”

A quick perusal of Friendster produced more Fakesters than i saw in the Fakester hayday. I find it utterly ironic – fakesters and teens everywhere and the early adopters are no longer participating. It seems as though their efforts to configure the users didn’t work so well. (Of course, today’s apathy is easy to explain… the Fakesters and teens aren’t nearly as visible to the friends and FoF of those in the Valley as they were 9 months ago.)

Vizster: beautiful YASNS visualizations

For his visualization class final project, Jeff Heer created Vizster, a visualization tool for online social networks. The tool allows you to explore the network and color-code the data to make easy comparisons. It’s built on top of Jeff’s toolkit called Prefuse.

(PS: Vizster is not currently available for download and Jeff is on a well-deserved vacation so don’t bug him until June. But definitely check out his other projects)

Abrams at SXSW: the MP3

I now have an MP3 of Abrams’ talk at SXSW. (Thanks Tom Chi!!)

It was actually really really good to listen to it again. Since i was so frustrated by the first time, my expectations were really low this time (as opposed to my high hopes before). This meant that i listened and ignored all of the places where i disagreed with him and focused on the fun anecdotes. There are many fun anecdotes embedded into the talk and that was good to listen for. If i had time, i’d go through and challenge different parts of the talk. That said, most of my disagreements are philosophical. For example, i don’t believe that the social awkwardness in Friendster is parallel to social awkwardness in everyday life. There are new issues and those must be addressed.

But anyhow, i wanted to pull out the section that really got my goat the other day.

“We’re all sick of the social networking thing”

Ryze: “It was a business networking site…” When he thought of Friendster, it wasn’t about dating. “I wanted to build a mainstream service. I thought… this isn’t business networking… this is *social* networking. Friends, dating, anything to do with that kinda of stuff. So that’s how i thought of the term social networking.”

Other people thought of businessy things… “And now there’s this whole kind of thing where people are talking about social networking. And they’re referring to any service or site that has these similar concepts.” Like Spoke…. “This is salesforce enterprise software deal – really quite different.” “And now they’re calling this a space.”

So, the problems are two-fold. First is the visceral response that i got when Abrams so casually described how he found the term social networking in his creative efforts. He then goes on to assumed a shared understanding of the term he’s adopted and is upset because everyone else is talking about social networks. He suggests that they are doing something very different to what Friendster is doing and that they should not be considered social networks.

When Spoke talks about social networks, they are actually using the term *far* more accurately to its definition than Friendster. People use their social networks to do business; social networks are about people and relationships, not simply networks that are used for social events. What makes Spoke far closer to the target is the fact that they are deriving behavior-based social networks instead of relying on people articulating them. Thus, they are actually representing social networks, not performance.

As i think about this, the reason that this got my goat was because it is a repurposing of a term that has lots of history and value because Abrams thought that he was the first to come up with it and capitalize on it. The most insulting part is that Abrams critiques sites using social networks to complete other tasks because they aren’t doing exactly what he did. These sites are not simply social networks by self-definition only; those of us on the outside saw them as such too. Take Ryze. Ryze isn’t business networking… it’s social networking for a business context. This section makes Abrams come across as ignorant. And that’s quite disappointing.

my etech talk: revenge of the user

I gave my talk at Etech on Revenge of the User today. In typical danah-mode, i spoke a mile-a-minute and, thus, folks kept asking me if i had more material. Thus, i thought that i’d offer the crib of my talk on my blog. I’ve included it in the extended entry. Please note that it was a crib for me and probably has a lot of holes and missing bits. Feel free to add what i skipped in the comments.

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Friendster moving away from dating?

John Batelle is kindly spreading gossip that Friendster is moving away from dating. I know that they’re hiring pretty rapidly (i keep hearing from folks who are interviewing there). Also, the customer service thing this morning makes me think that they’re finally taking ahold of customer service… maybe?

I think it will be interesting to see what this means. The Fakester Revolution folks have died down. Many of the early hipsters who flooded Friendster have gotten bored and left (i.e. only login when necessary). Its popularity in Asia is soaring. And i have to imagine that the reason that nothing has changed in forever (either speed-wise or functionality-wise) is an indicator that large changes are in the works.

A while back, i posited that “One year from now, i suspect that the current incarnation of Friendster will have faded from people’s memories, a fad that was fun to play with…” Given these rumblings, i’m curious to see if Friendster is willing and able to take this fad to the next level, if they will take hold of the evolution. Because, so far, i’ve only seen improvements on (or destructions of) the original ideas.

[Note: evolving social networks software doesn’t simply mean expanding into other domains beyond dating…]

# of friends & popularity issues

Originally, Friendster listed who the most popular people were in your network. Quickly, Fakesters such as Burning Man and Ali G rose to the top and the community worked to push them there.

Due to the tribes component, has not had the dramatic number of “Fakesters.” Recently, they implemented a new feature that, at first past, seems to imply the same popularity contest. They indicate under every user’s post the number of Friends that s/he has.

A brilliant discussion by the users has emerged over this topic, revealing why this is not identical to the Friendster phenomenon.

Some Tribe users clearly note that they find it sketchy for a user to have either too many or too few friends. The former makes them look like they need to collect friends for some personal reason and the latter makes them look like they are too much of a lurker with no friends. Of course, the numbers are read in line with how long someone has been on the site and the reasons for which s/he is here.

It’s also utterly fascinating because it’s a conversation about users challenging how they are perceived, how they perceive, how they are configured, how they present their identity. It’s all done without the moderation or guidance of anyone – emergent reflexivity. Yummy – that’s the best.