The life and death of Friendster


In 2005, if someone would have told me that the pioneer social networking site “Friendster” will get lost in the oblivion several years from then, I would hardly be able to believe it. Before Friendster, there were some sites that tried to introduce the concept of social networking but none managed to do it on such a large scale as Friendster.

2002 was the year of the dawn of a concept that most of the people didn’t know much about and today those same people can’t seem live without it; this evolutionary concept was social networking. With the passage of time more and more companies tried to carve a niche for themselves in this booming industry. But most companies couldn’t survive under such challenging conditions, with the exception of few. Websites like Myspace, HI5, and Orkut were all in the same race, competing to be the king of the social network but none would become one.

In 2004 the competition got fiercer for the reigning king of social networking at that time, Friendster, with the establishment of Facebook. After the founding of Facebook, everything took a turn for the worse for Friendster. In spite of the fact that the people behind Friendster knew about this new new player in the field, they didn’t view it as a direct threat and therefore didn’t quite manage to keep up and compete with the new kid on the block. Of course, in the end, it was Facebook who took the winning title and ultimately changed our social networking practices and culture.

The story behind Friendster is a sad one. The company went from being the top social networking site, dropping to second tier and eventually getting completely lost in the shadows of bigger and better sites like Facebook. The people behind Friendster tried to salvage what was left of their site. This all happened after about 7 years after its founding without success. The company tried to transform Friendster from social networking site to social gaming platform. Although they got some momentum in the beginning and you could say that they looked really promising, it was not enough momentum for them to pursue their objectives furthermore. They have since ceased all operations.



Jonathan Abrams:

Jonathan Abrams is a successful entrepreneur and was the man behind websites like socializer, FRIENDSTER, and Hotlinks. He is also the founder and CEO of Nuzzel and a co-founder and managing partner of Founders Den. The foundation of the social networking site Friendster, which could have easily been one of his greatest creations turned out to be his worst. From early on the company faced a variety of technical issues and also struggled to monetize their site. However, Jonathan Abrams still argues that despite the fact that Friendster was not able to be the hit he thought it would, it still it left a positive impact on his life overall. He said:

                    “Whenever you step out and do something, you are going to get both positive and negative feedback. That’s just what happens when you create things,” he says. “Absolutely there are people who have criticized me for things involving Friendster — sometimes things that are not true. But overall, most of the legacy of Friendster is pretty positive. And there are a lot of connections and relationships that I have that may have been started because of Friendster.”



Friendster, which was launched in 2002, was one of the first social networking websites. And unarguably the most successful of that time. It was founded by Jonathan Abrams, and it’s headquarter was established in California. When Friendster was launched it was simply a social networking site, and its main purpose was to provide opportunities for people to make new friends and to stay in touch with old ones. It allowed users to communicates with other members, discover new events and brands, share media and online content, and to find new hobbies.

When Friendster was at its peak it had more than tens of millions of registered users. Its early starts was so promising that Google offered $30 million to acquire it back in 2003. But after its early success, it quickly began to decline. And this gradual decline inevitably became the reason for its fall. By 2006, Friendster had lost most of its popularity in the US and most of its user were from Southeast Asia. It still had quite a few users from that region right up until 2009, but the bond connecting them to the brand wasn’t that strong. Most of the users were only friends with their immediate relatives and friends or in other words Friendster lost in keeping up with its major objective that was making people meet new people.

In 2009, it was announced that Friendster was acquired by one of Asia’s largest internet companies MOL Global for $26.4 million. A Couple of years later it transformed from social networking site to social gaming site and discontinued user’s s accounts. The services of Friendster and its website was closed in 2015.



In 2002, Friendster raised its first funding when the investors from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Benchmark Capital, and some other private investors invested an amount of $12 million. Again in 2006, it was funded with an amount of $3 million by the same company. In the same year, Friendster received $10 million through the funding rounds led by DAG Ventures. Furthermore, it raised $20 million through a funding round led by IDG Ventures in 2008. These three companies and some individual investor were the main sources of Friendster’s funds.


In 2002, Friendster was launched with the main purpose that everyone from around the world (over 16) can interact and socialize with their old friends and also make new ones. And judging from its initial performance, it can easily be considered as a hit. Countries like USA, UK and several more saw the birth of Friendster and also used it. But the major quantity of users Friendster got was from Asia especially South East Asia. Even after fading away from countries like the USA, it was still getting a large amount of traffic from countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and other South Eastern Asia countries. The recent research has shown that Friendster was still getting a huge amount of traffic from these countries up until 2009. And even after its transformation from social networking site to a social gaming site, the main source of their website traffic were the same countries from South East Asia.



One thing Friendster still had despite being overshadowed by websites like Facebook and twitter was the large sum of members Friendster still had. In 2009, Friendster granted the portfolios of its patents to the social networking companies. Facebook was the most active one as it acquired more than 18 of Friendster patents.


In 2009 after going through ups and downs in its online social networking career, it was finally bought by the Malaysian company, MOL Global for $26.4 million. It was another big step in the long journey of Friendster. For a short moment, it seemed that Friendster would rise up again and compete with social networking sites like Facebook, but it was not menat to be.



In 2011, Friendster transformed from social networking site to social gaming platform. Its main focus was now shifted from socializing to entertainment. The previous accounts of its users remained unchanged but the user information such as pictures were removed. Friendster had given some time for their users to back up their data before completely removing it. In the beginning, it all appeared promising but this didn’t carry on for long as it was closed within a time of couple of years.



After a long online career, Friendster ceased to exist in 2015. What began as a break-through social networking site, and later bought by MOL Global and then transformed into a gaming platform was ultimately unsuccessful. The fall of the Friendster was not sudden at all. Everyone could see that from miles out that the only way Friendster was going was down. And down it went. In 2015, once referred to as the pioneer of social networking, in a sense, died as it was closed for an indefinite period.



Many people over the past decade have studied about the causes of the fall and the decline of Friendster. The best possible reason it seemed, was that it had to face severe technical problems and investors didn’t help out much in finding the appropriate solution for these problems. But all we know is that the colorful saga of Friendster is over for now. The founder of Friendster is still in the business of social networking. But the journey of one of its greatest creation is over for sure.