The New York Times has an article on the downfall of friendster. It traces Friendster through the fabled Google buyout offer, numerous CEOs, and dwindling traffic. In the article most of the blame is aimed at high-profile investors and board-members for not recognizing Friendster’s performance issues and paying more attention to what potential competitors were doing. I was a fairly early Friendster user and I had a ton of fun at first, but I definitely stopped using the service when the performance dropped.
I have always attributed Friendster’s decline to two issues. One was its performance issues (well-addressed in the article). The other was that Friendster fought its users. Its users wanted groups and Friendster tried to stop them from making it happen. In Friendster all of the nodes were people. To connect to another person it had to be through other people and their set of relationships. Some people wanted to cut through this and have nodes that represented interests, locations, or celebrities.These were known as Fakesters and were routinely deleted by Friendster for not being real human beings and for connecting formerly disparate nodes of Friendster’s social network. It was a chance for Friendster to listen to their users and learn what they wanted instead of sending them off to Tribe.net, Orkut, and eventually MySpace — all of which allowed groups from the beginning. Friendster certainly has gotten better of late, but I agree with the prinicipals in the article that its is a cautionary tale.