The history of Friendster, a formerly popular social networking site that many cite as being one of the original social networks, is littered with numerous stories of triumph. The site still remains popular and is a contender in the social networking world, but it has fallen behind the more popular and well-known sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter in the United States. However, based out of Mountain View, California, the site still has a large number of users from Asia and several other Eastern countries.
The History of Friendster
Friendster was created in 2002 by Peter Chin, Jonathan Abrams and Dave Lee. The group wanted to find a way for people to meet new friends on the Internet, keep in contact with already existing friends and to expand personal networks in a safe manner. At the time of the site's creation, the concept of social networking was still novel and the group hoped web interactions would spur face-to-face relationships among users. It wasn't until the site grew and competitors like Myspace launched that the concept of social networking globally was really approached.
The group was funded in 2003 with a $12 million investment by a private capital investor firm called Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Benchmark Capital. The money was initially focused on growing the site out of a conceptual level to the large level of success the site saw. Launched in March of 2002, the site found over three million users in the first few months. Becoming a national success in the United States made the concept of social networking acceptable. The site grew to mainstream popularity and was offered a buyout in 2003 from Google. The site declined, citing a continued interest in solitary ownership. A 2006 funding offer from the group's initial investor helped to spur financial success. Later investors like DAG Ventures, IDG Ventures and a 2009 acquisition by MOL Global has helped to keep the company afloat.
Another accolade of Friendster was that since the site was one of the first networks out there, they acquired numerous patents of interest to the world of social networking such as those related to gauging similar users, storage of social data relationships, content management on the Internet and more. In 2010, Facebook and several other social networks found themselves in talks with Friendster to acquire some of these patents for their services. Facebook walked away from these talks with 18 of the patents that Friendster formerly held for a negotiated sum of $39.5 million dollars.
While Friendster spurred numerous social networking sites in its time like Dogster, Elfster and more, the site's main competition came with the launch of MySpace and later, the college-only Facebook. In terms of United States usage, the site has declined in users since its heyday. Many users fell into Facebook and MySpace primarily because that was the site that featured their friends at the time. Luckily for the site, while US usage declined, Asian use of the platform skyrocketed. In 2008, Friendster hired former Google executive Richard Kimber as CEO in order to focus heavily on the Asia expansion of the site. The acquisition by MOLK Global, a stronghold in the Asian Internet industry, has helped to achieve that goal. The site relaunched with a new interface in 2009 that assisted in the mission also, better branding the site in the eyes of Asian users.
A Final Thought
Whether you were an early adopter of the Friendster platform, a late user or someone who never got around to using the site, there is no denying the role that Friendster played in the path of social networking. The history of Friendster may appear to some as the story of a now failed social network, but the site is still heavily performing across the world in a tried-and-true type of longevity that few social networks (or websites) ever see.