Gray Flannel Dwarf


Friend(ster)s in High Places

This turn of events raises myriad questions, but one jumps immediately to the top of the list. A year after making its public debut, Friendster has attracted, according to Abrams, a whopping 5 million users. At the same time, it has yet to generate a dime of revenue. Of all the lessons of the Internet bubble, maybe the most incontrovertible is that metrics such as site traffic and pageviews are meaningless in and of themselves; they matter only in conjunction with a credible plan for turning eyeballs into cash flow. So the question is, Does Friendster have a plan, or is this 1999 all over again?

I dunno why Business 2.0 needs to even ask that question. I’ve been saying for quite some time, when Friendster first came out (when it was still in Beta) that this had been done before. Remember Sixdegrees? We all know what happened to that.

By the spring of 2002, Abrams says, he was “unemployed, not doing well financially, and certainly not looking to do another startup.” Then he came up with the idea for Friendster, hacked up a prototype, and watched in amazement as the thing went viral.

“Came up with the idea”, eh. Because it was the first of its kind, more “revolutionary innovation”?

As for Friendster’s service, I took a look around, got bored, and deleted my account to avoid any of the inevitable politics that were coming down the pike regarding “friend networks”. I’ve signed up again to one of these things, Orkut this time, but again, it’s nothing fantastic.

Friend networking should work. It’s something people have talked about for years. It’s a natural progression of things. However, I don’t think it translates to business very well, and it’s certainly never been implemented very well, Friendster included. LiveJournal does it in a sort of different, low-level way that kind of works, but even then, it’s not the main focus of the site.

One theory I have is that no one has taken into account the inevitable conflicts that occur in real life. If Joe Bob is friends with Group A and Group B, but the two groups do not necessarily get along too well, Joe Bob can usually navigate his way between the two with only minor difficulty. With friend networks, you wear your decisions on your sleeve… and I have no doubt that this can only lead to antagonising situations.

I’m not talking “gang warfare” on the web, by any means, and am not saying that the politics that the hypothetical Joe Bob has to play in the above real-life is even the right way to handle things — but it’s nonetheless how things happen.

Friendster is just one of several examples of sites which show that, evidently, we never learned our history — because people and companies are obviously repeating it.

cswiii @ 10:01 am

Leave a Reply

It sounds like SK2 has recently been updated on this blog. But not fully configured. You MUST visit Spam Karma's admin page at least once before letting it filter your comments (chaos may ensue otherwise).