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Analysis: Friendster is Doing Just Fine
/ May 13, 2007 9:49 pm
Much is made over the death of Friendster.  You’d think the site had long folded its tents and packed up the wagons.  But you’d be wrong.  Friendster isn’t only alive, it’s thriving, doing so far from the spotlight of American technorati and teens.  According to Alexa, Friendster should no longer be considered the “former champion” of social networking.  In Southeast Asia, anyway, they have it dialed. 


Surprising as it may be, Friendster is the world’s 25th most trafficked site today.  That puts it six spots behind Facebook and twenty behind MySpace.  Scroll down a little further, however, and you’ll begin to see a shift in one key category.


Friendster receives less than 6% of its overall traffic in the US, making it the 78th most popular site here.  Not bad, but compared to MySpace (the 3rd most popular US site) and Facebook (7th), the death knell calls become more understandable.  So where does Friendster get its eyes?  According to Alexa, its traffic percentages by country are:


  • Malaysia: 23.6%
  • Philippines: 22.1%
  • Singapore: 17.9%
  • Indonesia: 14.3%
  • U.S.: 5.8%


So Friendster has succeeded in attracting traffic from Southeast Asia, but how popular is it within those countries?  Huge, apparently.  It’s the second most popular site in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore.  Who does it trail in all four?  Yahoo.  Who falls just behind it?  Google, YouTube, and MSN, to name a few.


According to the LA Times, Friendster counts 87% of the Philippines’ 8 million internet users as customers.


While MySpace is the 7th most popular site in Malaysia, no data was provided for the other three.  Japan was last on MySpace’s Alexa traffic list – 87th there.  Facebook ranks somewhere below 711th in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Singapore. 


So how has Friendster managed to succeed so far from home?  Jeff Roberto, Friendster’s marketing director, said the company’s San Francisco location has helped.  With a large Southeast Asian population there, he says Frienster was used in its heyday of 2002-2003 to maintain contact with family and friends at home.  The site stuck with folks at home, and has remained popular since.


But that can’t be the entire explanation, can it?  When asked what Friendster has done, specifically, to promote itself abroad, he said the company focuses on improving its services, not its advertising.  So does that mean other social networks are just as apt to succeed in foreign markets, specifically in Asia?  Is Friendster’s hold simply random? 


If so, there are potential implications for the U.S. social networking market, where popularity – gripped tightly by MySpace for the moment – might be more fragile than we’re led to believe.  Still in its infancy, analysts and industry insiders say the market will become more fractured, and offerings will become more specialized.  How will the majors – MySpace, Facebook, and yes, Friendster – adapt?  

Scott Goldberg

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