Yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine who said, jokingly I think, that he was going to bring back Friendster. To think that just a year ago everyone who was anyone had a Friendster account, it’s fairly amazing how quickly the site has fallen from grace. Social networking was all the buzz in September/October of 2003. Now, however, outside college where sites like thefacebook are picking up some slack, there doesn’t seem to be any excitement left. So what happened? To put it simply, people realized that Friendster had no real relevance for them in their lives. It was fun for a little while to write/receive testimonials and collect friends, but people quickly began to realize that the benefits of Friendster pretty much ended there.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was pretty impressed with social networking sites when they first came out. It simply amazed me that it had taken so long for us to recreate our real social networks using the networked architecture of the internet. For the first time we had a way to visualize and understand our social circle (maybe web would be a more appropriate term). All of a sudden we could see how we were connected to different people. However, after I, got past that initial fun of these sites I really began to realize that there was very little usefulness built in. Other than the ability to post events or messages to a large group (which is easy enough through any number of other ways), sites like Friendster are just not overly useful. They’re a good way to show off how many people you know, but other than that I can’t think of why I should use them.
So my question, to anyone who doesn’t mind taking the time to answer it, is what is worthwhile about social networking sites? I’m really interested in understanding why they are relevant to my life (if they are at all). Certainly there are pieces of social networking that could be kept. In a way sites like del.icio.us and Audioscrobbler use some social networking architecture in the way they work. I guess my question is just, am I missing the point or is Friendster useless?