The Rise and Fall of Friendster

26 Nov 2007 - 10:33am
6 years ago
6 replies
442 reads
Murli Nagasundaram
2007

Interesting story. I noted a couple of telling passages (from a
design/prototype/deployment perspective):

"I did what you're always told to do as a young entrepreneur," Abrams says.
"I brought on experienced investors to help Friendster fulfill its
potential. But the all-star team was the curse of death."

"The growth presented immediate engineering headaches. ... By late 2003,
load times regularly clocked in at over a minute and users were beginning to
complain in blogs and forums. ... The problem might have been solved if
someone had reworked the software to ignore distant connections--for
example, by calculating only connections between friends. But Friendster's
engineers were so preoccupied with day-to-day slowdowns that they neglected
to step back and ask what was causing them.

"This time, he plans to favor quick and dirty engineering solutions over the
elegant but not necessarily practical ideas that were imposed by
Friendster's management."

The most critical issues appear to have involved paying attention to the
social context of the technical solution plus the need to rapidly prototype
and test, learning and modifying the design as you go, rather than waste an
undue amount of time building grand initial plans divorced from reality.

-mn.

On 11/26/07, Mike Scarpiello <mscarpiello at gmail.com > wrote:
>
> This is a little long, but a really great analysis of the first social
> networking site -
>
> http://tinyurl.com/2k86l9
> ________________________________________________________________
>

--
Murli Nagasundaram, Ph.D.
http://www.murli.com
murli at murli.com
+91 99 02 69 69 20

Comments

26 Nov 2007 - 12:38pm
Anonymous

Another great revelation is that they were trying to do all these
partnership deals with AOL, etc, and then one night one of the fellas
looked at the web logs and saw that traffic was peaking at 2am, and
they found out the majority of site users were in the Philippines!

On Nov 26, 2007 9:33 AM, Murli Nagasundaram <murliman at gmail.com> wrote:
> Interesting story. I noted a couple of telling passages (from a
> design/prototype/deployment perspective):
>
> "I did what you're always told to do as a young entrepreneur," Abrams says.
> "I brought on experienced investors to help Friendster fulfill its
> potential. But the all-star team was the curse of death."
>
> "The growth presented immediate engineering headaches. ... By late 2003,
> load times regularly clocked in at over a minute and users were beginning to
> complain in blogs and forums. ... The problem might have been solved if
> someone had reworked the software to ignore distant connections--for
> example, by calculating only connections between friends. But Friendster's
> engineers were so preoccupied with day-to-day slowdowns that they neglected
> to step back and ask what was causing them.
>
> "This time, he plans to favor quick and dirty engineering solutions over the
> elegant but not necessarily practical ideas that were imposed by
> Friendster's management."
>
> The most critical issues appear to have involved paying attention to the
> social context of the technical solution plus the need to rapidly prototype
> and test, learning and modifying the design as you go, rather than waste an
> undue amount of time building grand initial plans divorced from reality.
>
> -mn.
>
>
> On 11/26/07, Mike Scarpiello <mscarpiello at gmail.com > wrote:
> >
> > This is a little long, but a really great analysis of the first social
> > networking site -
> >
> > http://tinyurl.com/2k86l9
> > ________________________________________________________________
> >
>
>
> --
> Murli Nagasundaram, Ph.D.
> http://www.murli.com
> murli at murli.com
> +91 99 02 69 69 20
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

26 Nov 2007 - 12:51pm
Weixi Yen
2007

This is an interesting story with an intricate analysis about the failure of
Friendster, but I think it's analyzing a bit too much.

Frienster failed because they couldn't make a good business decision to cut
a feature - the one that shows the degree of separation between friends.
Anyone remember this?

[ Me > Friend 1 > Friend 2 > Friend I'm currently viewing. ]

I've personally worked on an algorithm for this feature as a prototype demo
for a client when Friendster was still in its first year and realized that
even on a small sample size (50 users), this algorithm would slow down the
servers considerably.

Everyone I talked to quit specifically due to those load times as well.
It's not a problem that can be fixed with more servers. To say that this is
a structural failure of the VC system is a bit out of line.

My guess is that Abrams is blaming the VC system when it was probably due to
his own inability to make a good business decision and cut a tumorous
feature that no one needed. This should have been done early on and it
shouldn't have even made it into public beta.

On Nov 25, 2007 7:33 PM, Mike Scarpiello <mscarpiello at gmail.com> wrote:

> This is a little long, but a really great analysis of the first social
> networking site -
>
> http://tinyurl.com/2k86l9
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

26 Nov 2007 - 1:41pm
Anne Hjortshoj
2007

I have two problems with this article.

1) The VC thing happens all the time, and is not unique to Friendster.
It's an old story. I think they're missing the point ...

2) ... Which is: social networking is a tool, not a product.
Friendster, Myspace, Orkut, whatever -- they all fall down when
another, hipper, newer social networking site emerges (and I believe
that even Facebook with its applications will meet the same fate,
eventually). After the novelty of adding friends has worn off, there's
nothing to keep people wedded to a particular site, even if that site
-doesn't- have server issues.

These sites simply don't solve any problems, from a business
perspective. They're toys, and toys fall out of favor.

-Anne

On 11/26/07, Weixi Yen <weixiyen at gmail.com> wrote:
> This is an interesting story with an intricate analysis about the failure of
> Friendster, but I think it's analyzing a bit too much.
>
> Frienster failed because they couldn't make a good business decision to cut
> a feature - the one that shows the degree of separation between friends.
> Anyone remember this?
>
> [ Me > Friend 1 > Friend 2 > Friend I'm currently viewing. ]
>
> I've personally worked on an algorithm for this feature as a prototype demo
> for a client when Friendster was still in its first year and realized that
> even on a small sample size (50 users), this algorithm would slow down the
> servers considerably.
>
> Everyone I talked to quit specifically due to those load times as well.
> It's not a problem that can be fixed with more servers. To say that this is
> a structural failure of the VC system is a bit out of line.
>
> My guess is that Abrams is blaming the VC system when it was probably due to
> his own inability to make a good business decision and cut a tumorous
> feature that no one needed. This should have been done early on and it
> shouldn't have even made it into public beta.
>
>
>
> On Nov 25, 2007 7:33 PM, Mike Scarpiello <mscarpiello at gmail.com> wrote:
>
> > This is a little long, but a really great analysis of the first social
> > networking site -
> >
> > http://tinyurl.com/2k86l9
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> > February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> > Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
Anne Hjortshoj | anne.hj at gmail.com | www.annehj.com

26 Nov 2007 - 1:43pm
Anonymous

Weixi - another thing to point out is that he ASSUMED this feature
was important to people, but never actually did
any research to find out if that was the case!

On Nov 26, 2007 11:51 AM, Weixi Yen <weixiyen at gmail.com> wrote:
> This is an interesting story with an intricate analysis about the failure of
> Friendster, but I think it's analyzing a bit too much.
>
> Frienster failed because they couldn't make a good business decision to cut
> a feature - the one that shows the degree of separation between friends.
> Anyone remember this?
>
> [ Me > Friend 1 > Friend 2 > Friend I'm currently viewing. ]
>
> I've personally worked on an algorithm for this feature as a prototype demo
> for a client when Friendster was still in its first year and realized that
> even on a small sample size (50 users), this algorithm would slow down the
> servers considerably.
>
> Everyone I talked to quit specifically due to those load times as well.
> It's not a problem that can be fixed with more servers. To say that this is
> a structural failure of the VC system is a bit out of line.
>
> My guess is that Abrams is blaming the VC system when it was probably due to
> his own inability to make a good business decision and cut a tumorous
> feature that no one needed. This should have been done early on and it
> shouldn't have even made it into public beta.
>
>
>
>
>
> On Nov 25, 2007 7:33 PM, Mike Scarpiello <mscarpiello at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >
> >
> > This is a little long, but a really great analysis of the first social
> > networking site -
> >
> > http://tinyurl.com/2k86l9
> > ________________________________________________________________
> >
> > *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> > February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> > Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
> >
> > ________________________________________________________________
> > Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> > To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> > Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> > List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> > List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> >
>
>

26 Nov 2007 - 2:38pm
Matt Nish-Lapidus
2007

There was a great article about this on Bokardo a little while ago...
Joshua Porter wrote that the success of any social networking site
depends on the usefulness of that site in the absence of other users.

In other words, "what does this site do for -me-," is the primary
concern, the social aspects are secondary.

http://bokardo.com/archives/the-delicious-lesson/

On Nov 26, 2007 1:41 PM, Anne Hjortshoj <anne.hj at gmail.com> wrote:
> I have two problems with this article.
>
> 1) The VC thing happens all the time, and is not unique to Friendster.
> It's an old story. I think they're missing the point ...
>
> 2) ... Which is: social networking is a tool, not a product.
> Friendster, Myspace, Orkut, whatever -- they all fall down when
> another, hipper, newer social networking site emerges (and I believe
> that even Facebook with its applications will meet the same fate,
> eventually). After the novelty of adding friends has worn off, there's
> nothing to keep people wedded to a particular site, even if that site
> -doesn't- have server issues.
>
> These sites simply don't solve any problems, from a business
> perspective. They're toys, and toys fall out of favor.
>

--
Matt Nish-Lapidus
email/gtalk: mattnl at gmail.com
++
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/mattnl
Home: http://www.nishlapidus.com

29 Nov 2007 - 2:38pm
mauropin
2007

On Nov 26, 2007 5:38 PM, Matthew Nish-Lapidus <mattnl at gmail.com> wrote:
> There was a great article about this on Bokardo a little while ago...
> Joshua Porter wrote that the success of any social networking site
> depends on the usefulness of that site in the absence of other users.
>
> In other words, "what does this site do for -me-," is the primary
> concern, the social aspects are secondary.
>
> http://bokardo.com/archives/the-delicious-lesson/
>

Matthew, I wouldn't go that far, saying that the success of **any**
social networking site depends on the usefulness of that site in the
**absence** of other users. That may make sense in the article you've
mentioned, because it discuss del.icio.us tagging feature, in
comparison to flickr and other "social networking" (sic) sites which
use tags as well.

But there are some sites that doesn't have any valeu in absence of
other users. Orkut is a HUGE success here in Brazil, and it's success
is directly related to the presence of other users.

In fact, brazilian orkut users have been using some features of that
site in a very interesting way, that many times has nothing to do with
it's original intention. But it is all about the social networking,
about staying in touch with friends, other people, whoever...

Joshua Porter article is really interest, but there's no way to
generalize it to other social networking sites. Flickr and del.icio.us
have other primary functions, I would say they help you organize your
stuff (photos, bookmarks, whatsoever). Orkut, Facebook and Friendster
are totally different.

For those who say that social networking sites fall down when a fresh
new one emerges, I wouldn't be sure about that...Orkut continues to
increase it's presence here, although there are many other sites just
like it, for a long time. Here in Brazil Facebook users are just a
few, (Friendster never happened), in comparison with Orkut. And nobody
can say why.

Particular contexts have different users, and we should be cautions
with generalizations.

--
prof. mauro pinheiro
universidade federal do espírito santo
centro de artes
depto. de desenho industrial

Syndicate content Get the feed