Friendster's Recipe for Mediocrity

by Joey deVilla on October 16, 2006

If you had to reduce the New York Times article on Friendster, Wallflower at the Web Party, down to a set of bullet points on how to destroy a promising social software application, it would look something like this:

  • Inflate your ego to Ellisonian proportions; emulate Larry's social graces at parties.
  • Make sure that all the decision makers don't understand the concept of your application, don't use it and are well outside your target demographic.
  • Focus on adding new features and reaching new markets instead of fixing basic problems such as glacial response times. There's no money in user experience.
  • Obsess over what Google and Yahoo! will do rather than what you're going to do
  • Micromanage your users: rigidly control what they can post on their pages (Pictures of the actual user only! No joke pics, no pet pics!) and whose profiles they can see (only friends and friends of friends).
  • Leave users with nothing to do once they've entered their profile and amassed a collection of friends.

The article misses a small but significant point that turned off a lot of early adopters: Friendster's infamous firing of programmer Joyce “Troutgirl” Park, simply for blogging that they had switched back-ends from J2EE to PHP, something that could easily be discerned from the filename extensions of its web pages.

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