09:58 AM

Friendster in the NY Times spotlight

by Doug Millison for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Social networking specialist, Friendster, gets the spotlight at the New York Times today in a profile that takes away more than it gives.

In Friendster, Love and Money by Gary Rivlin writes:

Fifteen months ago, Friendster enjoyed the kind of enviable status that Silicon Valley start-ups dream of: A-list investors and millions of users flocking to its Web site to browse profiles posted by friends and friends' friends, in search of dates or playmates.

So great was the buzz surrounding the company in the second half of 2003 that Friendster, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., helped define a hot new facet of the Internet dubbed "social networking."

People are again buzzing about Friendster. But that is because the company, which endured three chief executives during 2004, has seen a spate of senior executives depart in recent weeks. Just as troubling, a younger, flashier rival called MySpace has eclipsed Friendster, at least in the United States, among those in the most highly coveted 18 to 29 demographic. And Friendster loyalists have groused that the company has done almost nothing to enliven its site.

Piling on is Mark J. Pincus, described by Rivlin as "an investor in Friendster and the founder of Tribe Networks, a budding social networking Web site that hopes to capture some of the print classified advertising market."

"I think Friendster really missed their big opportunity," Pincus told Rivlin.

Rivlin's article casts doubt on the viability of the social networking category in general, and raises the prospect that Friendster's history may scare away the venture capital that has only recently begun creeping into Silicon Valley again.

Rivlin's article also touts several Friendster competitors, including MySpace (which gets very favorable treatment in the story, as Rivlin contrasts MySpace's lead over Friendster in page views and number of unique visitors), the above-mentioned Tribe Networks, and Google's Orkut.


Friendster, Love and Money by Gary Rivlin, New York Times, 24 January 2004

What's the story? Doug Millison also edits OnlineJournalist.org, "on a need-to-know basis"