How a Social Network Dies: The Friendster Autopsy

How a Social Network Dies: The Friendster Autopsy

Friendster in 2004, as captured by the Internet Archive. Screenshot: Wired

What kills a social network? A group of internet archeologists have picked over the digital bones of Friendster — the pioneering social networking site that drowned in Facebook’s wake — and we now have a clearer picture of its epic collapse.

Friendster was once the hottest thing in social networking. Google wanted to buy it for $30 million back in 2003, but — burdened by technical glitches and a more nimble competitor in Facebook — it was pretty much dead in the U.S. by 2006. That said, it trudged along for a few more years, helped by a relatively strong following in southeast Asia. Then, around 2009, a site redesign crushed it.

It ended up being a kind of “controlled demolition,” with weakly connected chains of friends quickly disintegrating, says David Garcia, a professor with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and one of the authors of a recent paper analyzing Friendster’s demise.

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If there’s a lesson to be learned from the data, it’s that it takes more than a lot of users to build a viable social network. They need to have strong connections too. So Facebook should be looking at the types of connections its users have and encourage them to connect to other strongly connected users, Garcia says.

In other words, strong networks are made up of strongly-linked people, not of stragglers.

Read the whole article over at Wired: The Friendster Autopsy: How a Social Network Dies