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Friendster, the pioneer of social networks, is also the bridge between online dating sites and social networks. The premise is that your dates will be more successful if you date people referred by your friends and acquaintances. And if the dating thing doesn't work out, you can just hang out and be buddies. And Friendster hopes that when you do hang out, you do it online (see Figure 1).

Figure 1Figure 1 Your Friendster home page—where you can see your friends and message notifications.

Friendster claims more than 5 million registrants, which is a much larger user base than most other networks to date. That number, however, doesn't necessary equate to 5 million potential dates. Following the Six Degrees convention, who you see and have access to contacting on Friendster is based on your circle of friends, their friends and their friends' friends.

Some of the users who have signed up for Friendster aren't exactly human. A variety of pets, mostly dogs and cats, have registered. Presumably in search of play dates, characters such as Oscar the Grouch and Sloth (of Goonies fame) are available to be friends with. Then there are the inanimate objects such as Boston's Citgo sign (a local landmark), plus several towns. Adding a city or town to your circle of friends is an easy way to quickly expand your network, if that's your aim, because everyone who's a friend of that city or town falls within your circle.

Friendster's orientation is one-to-one, similar to a dating service. It's also linear, friend-to-friend, so there's no easy way to create a community of individuals around a common interest (hence, the non-human registrants). In addition to an internal messaging or email system, with your registration you also get a "bulletin board," which is a quick way to send a notice to all your Friendster friends. You can use bulletin boards to announce your next party, as a blog-like device, or just to brag about your latest accomplishment (see Figure 2).

Figure 2Figure 2 Friendster's profile page asks questions to help prospective friends, and dates get to know you.

Although still in beta, eventually Friendster hopes to start charging a fee for certain services (it hasn't yet said when that will happen). In the meantime, it's earning some money through sponsored advertising. I experienced latency and overall slowness several time when trying to use Friendster, enough that on two separate occasions I left the site and went to do something else. Obviously, that problem will need to be addressed if members are expected to pay for service.

Still, if you're looking to create an online hangout with a bunch of your mostly-single friends, Friendster is the place to be.

Friendster Snippet

Boost your circle of friends:

  • Invite your friends and write each other testimonials—it's fun.

  • Join a town—automatically broaden your circle of friends.

  • Log in to Friendster frequently—it makes you more attractive to prospective friends.

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