Yesterday we brought you the news of how MySpace may only have quarters left to live, and while we cracked a joke about how this all related back to Friendster, it does make you wonder if there aren't some lessons here to be learned.
To be fair, Friendster is still active, and is actually quite popular in Asia. So much so that it was purchased last Dec. by MOL Global, a large Internet firm in Malaysia. The network is still open to all nations, but it's primary focus is now on that region of the world, and still receives over 61 million unique visitors a month.
Friendster had to be my first brush with social networking where I actually heard that term associated with a service. Sure I have been communicating and chatting online since 1986, but this was the first time I can consciously remember anyone using that term we have all come to know. The speed with which it was growing at one time made it seem like everyone in the world was on it, but of course that was far from the case.
When MySpace started to gain momentum, it was crazy to think it would become number one, but it did. Where it excelled was that it improved upon Friendster while keeping all of the aspects people loved about the previous service. Once again a site was growing like mad, everyone was talking about it, and then … Facebook.
Where I think Facebook has a leg up over previous kings of social networking is that it hasn't been satisfied with keeping itself as just a site that you have to visit. By building the login system, Like buttons and a heavy emphasis on mobile, Mark Zuckerberg and crew have worked hard at integrating themselves into every aspect of your life. While it has made the Web somewhat of a more frightening place as you can't seem to escape it, it will also make it hard for you to just up and decide to migrate to another service that comes along. True, a lot of these advances in social networking have come about due to technologies that were not known during Friendster's time, or just hadn't reached a saturation point in MySpace's case, but at least Facebook has had the forethought to stay on top of things.
With all this said, there is nothing saying that Facebook couldn't also be toppled one day. I am reminded of one of my all time favorite quotes from George Santayana, who once wrote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Facebook may feel like the king of the world right now, but they are one innovative service away from being the next Friendster if they don't mind the lessons that are to be learned.