Wednesday, August 11, 2004

So 15 minutes ago

So whatever happened to flash mobs? Or better yet, let's not talk about it, else someone might try to revive that dumb dadaist prank. Too bad LA Weekly isn't helping by having a cover package that includes an interview with the man behind the mob.


Also, there's an article on the troubles ailing something called Friendster. What a stupid name. Wait, that name kinda sounds familiar. Friendster, Friendster...oh, that's right! It's that networking site, the source of endless hours of amusement last summer, topic A of any conversation out on the town, and the place where I first came into contact with my present love. That Friendster!

Man, it was only a year ago that Friendster seemed to have reinvented a new form of social interaction. Last July, I checked the site every hour, scanning friends' profiles for jokey updates or new testimonials and trying to locate old crushes or just hot girls. Many other friends did the same. We'd talk about it, send weird profiles to one another, I even blogged about its social rules. Whenever I changed my profile, I could be sure to elicit a reaction from somebody. Then, about six months ago, the collective interest just dwindled to nil. Now, I might go on once a week, just to check bulletins. And it's not just my crowd. The site has gotten a diminishing number of hits and page views, bewildering the site's management and investors. (Check out what network guru Danah Boyd says.) Why the hasty demise? Was it because it got too big? That's partly true. But I think the LA Weekly piece is onto something: Friendster catered to new users instead of its base, the techies and hipsters that first created buzz for the site.

The folks I know who joined the site late were non-internet types or those focused on their careers or families. They weren't the urban single types that obsessed over the site. Friendster actually offered nothing to them, except some kind of interesting-for-a-minute cyber-map of their friends. Many late users just signed up and never logged on again. For the old hardcore users, Friendster just failed to innovate. While Friendster clones like MySpace and Google's Orkut added tons of new community-oriented features like interest groups and personal blogs and even basic functions like page-views, Friendster stood still. They were too busy adding servers to accomodate the new users.

And they still don't have a plan to make a profit. Social cyber-networking, I think, is here to stay, but by doing nothing for a whole year, Friendster just might turn out to be the model's Betamax.