Colin Barry

Friendster (CSN, Tuesday, Week 10)


"We had had the most effective user acquisition model in the history of history." -- Kent Lindstrom, Friendster

Key questions in developing a business strategy based on social networks:
(1) Is there a real problem?
(2) Can networks help?
(3) Are networks better than alternatives?
(4) Can you actually build a solution?
(5) Are you the best platform?

Social failures are not necessarily moral problems --- we should not assume that solving social failures is always a "good" thing. Sometimes solving failures introduces new problems.
Example: Facebook facilitates cheating on your spouse because it's much harder to have a wandering eye in the offline world. Social failure? Yes, people want their eyes to wander. "Good" thing? Maybe not.

How can Friendster monetize?
Dating, social search, social product referrals, city-centric (social Craigslist, plan my social life), personal media platform.

Dating: lots of problems and potential for embarrassment; users don't have tons of connections.
Social search: Good for subjective/local listings, no help for objective information. Which friends do we care about? Not clearly better than using past search history.
Trusted referrals: Hard to elicit user-generated content without money (which messes up incentives). Which friends do we care about? Not useful for many goods.
Trusted listings/social Craigslist: Market is shallow, not clear how network helps (and it may hurt).
Plan my social life: Untapped (at the time), real potential. But privacy issues, lots of substitutes (email), and you need ALL friends on the platform.

Conclusion: This is really hard. Especially because the Friendster tech infrastructure is crumbling...