Friendster was once a very popular social networking website that enabled its users to contact one another, share media and organise events. The site was once the most popular social network in the world – with particular popularity in Asia. However, Friendster was unable to maintain its popularity in subsequent years, with the site ultimately shutting down in 2015. In this article, we take a look at the history of Friendster – and analyse where it all went wrong.
Friendster was founded by Jonathan Abrams – a computer programmer from Canada – in 2002. The site was one of the first social network sites, and began life ahead of MySpace and Facebook. The site made a steady start – managing to attain 3million users within its first six months. The site had an excellent 2003 – and it came as little surprise to industry experts when Google offered $30million to purchase Friendster. This offer was rejected. Friendster was the most popular social network until 2004, when MySpace overtook it.
After being overtaken by Myspace, the problems mounted for Friendster. The founder Abrams was removed as CEO a few months into 2004. As a result, a slew of CEO’s would follow – none of which could mastermind a return to the top of the social networking tree. With several CEO’s coming and going, the site tried several short-term fixes – neglecting a long-term strategy. By the end of 2006, the company was worth less than $3million – a marked difference to the Google valuation from 2003.
Yet the company staged something of a fightback in the subsequent years – and by 2008 had 100million registered users – this despite Friendster having to withstand the continuous rise of Facebook and Bebo. Yet 2009 would be a poor year for the company – with the site losing users rapidly in the US – a key market. Friendster was sold to MOL Global for $26.4m at the end of 2009. MOL Global was one of Asia’s biggest internet companies, and with Asia being one of the last bastion’s of Friendster, the deal made sense.
However, over the next two years Friendster continued to struggle, with more and more Asian users flocking to Facebook and micro-blogging site Twitter. In mid 2011, Friendster was overhauled and redesigned as a social gaming site – with social networking accounts discontinued. The company stated that they intended to ‘complement’ the Facebook experience, rather than competing with it as it once did. The site initially enjoyed a rise – but this was merely a temporary reprieve in the end. In 2015, the site was shut down once and for all.
So what went wrong? Many people consider the decision of the owners of Friendster to reject Google’s offer in 2003 as a key point. Harnessing the power and reach of Google could have led to Friendster attaining more users. Of course, the rise of Facebook, MySpace and Twitter also had a profound impact. Friendster simply couldn’t compete with the rise of these other websites. A third and final factor in their downfall was their lack of long-term strategy, as evidenced by the range of CEO’s the company employed and then removed. These three factors together proved costly for Friendster.
Friendster was once the most popular social networks in the world – yet so many people who now use the likes of Facebook and Twitter will not have even heard of the site! This, like many of the other articles in our ‘what happened’ series – shows that you simply cannot afford to stagnate in the ever-changing social media world. Nowadays, the URL of the site redirects to MOL Global’s page, and whether or not it will ever be seen again as a stand-alone site remains to be seen. Unfortunately for fans of Friendster – their success was only temporary.