Cre­ator of Friend­ster web­site not so friendly

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA & MARKETING -

SAN FRAN­CISCO: The mil­lions of high school and col­lege kids on Face­book prob­a­bly have never heard of Jonathan Abrams or his once-pop­u­lar web­site Friend­ster.

But within a year af­ter its launch in March 2003, Friend­ster had de­fined so­cial net­work­ing as we know it to­day. It spurred mil­lions of Amer­i­cans to fill out their on­line pro­files with loads of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion and con­nect with friends on­line.

The con­cept in­spired hun­dreds of web­sites, in­clud­ing some of the world’s most traf­ficked prop­er­ties – MyS­pace, Face­book and Twit­ter.

As more sites, such as Google Reader and Hulu, add fea­tures to make their prod­ucts more so­cial, Abrams rolls his eyes. He takes pride in his claim to in­vent­ing the idea of re­quest­ing and ac­cept­ing friend­ships on­line. But be­cause he’s been around it longer than any­one, he’s also get­ting sick of all the friend re­quests.

“I’m a lit­tle burned out, to be hon­est. I get maybe five friend re­quests on Face­book per day,” Abrams said over lunch in San Fran­cisco re­cently. “I in­vented this stuff, and now I’m pay­ing for it.”

What Abrams had en­vi­sioned was a por­tal to con­nect with a tight-knit group of friends. Now, he says, he ac­cepts dig­i­tal friend­ships from peo­ple he meets through work and from vague ac­quain­tances out of guilt. He fi­nally just threw up his hands and adapted. Face­book and Twit­ter are now his ve­hi­cles for pro­mo­tion, not friend­ships.

What he’s pro­mot­ing is his startup So­cial­izr. A sort of so­cial cal­en­dar, the web­site is a di­rect com­peti­tor of Evite. (How di­rect? Well, he cre­ated grass-roots pages in­clud­ing EviteAl­ter­na­ to ex­press just how he feels about the ubiq­ui­tous event in­vi­ta­tion ser­vice.)

As main­stream me­dia are beginning to latch onto so­cial sites such as Twit­ter, there’s ev­i­dence that many users are fall­ing off. Twit­ter cre­ator Jack Dorsey said keep­ing users en­gaged is one of the site’s main chal­lenges. – Los An­ge­les Times.

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