NYT has a cool profile of Dana Boyd, a 25-year-old grad student at Berkeley studying digital social networks. Her blog, Connected Selves, was mentioned here a while ago.
Since we're talking about Friendster, let's chat a bit about our backlash baby. It used to be that on a weekly basis (usually a weekend basis), I would get in a conversation with someone about Friendster. Now, however, I get in a weekly conversation with someone who is ticked off because Friendster will eventually charge them to use it. The funny thing is that there's no proof this will actually happen -- everyone just assumes this is the direction Friendster will go. It's like everyone intrinsically believes in this fate because this is what happens to services we like on the internet: they start to suck and/or suck money. This is the lot served to our generation: free stuff, followed by the bill (social security and file sharing come to mind).
But I think differently. I have some advice for the minds behind Friendster: go ahead with your subscription service. I know how you can make a bundle off it without taking away a single feature from the current users. That's right, I know how you can keep your 3.2 million-person subscription base from fleeing, and you can go premium, and you can create better communities and therefore more users. How, you ask? Simple: add features that make people want to pay for your site. Here are just some ideas:
Allow subscribers to see any profile, even if they aren't connected to the person.
Or, if that's too extreme, allow them to see further than the 6 degrees currently allowed. Give subscribers 8 or 10 degrees.
Give subscribers special daily statistics, such as how many times their profile has been viewed. Or if you want to get real nasty, tell subscribers who has viewed their profile. Gawd, I'd pay big for that.
Let subscribers have more than five pictures.
Take away the banner and text ads for subscribers.
Give subscribers more fields to enter in their profile.
Make a deal with Amazon that allows subscribers to build personal recommendations lists with referral fees. Facilitate it with a WebService. Share the wealth.
Since you've got more data than anyone in the world on the cultural connections between people, make a deal with Meetup that allows people with similar interests to connect in some way.
Make a deal with HotOrNot and... okay, nevermind, don't do that.
This one will push you over the top: give subscribers a blog. If I knew that _____ was posting daily to her Friendster Blog, I would be there every day.
Allow subscribers to post classifieds, a la Tribe.net.
Allow subscribers create photo galleries, a la Photolog.
Allow subscribers to mix features from the Gallery and the Search, such that I can find all the 25-year-old girls who like Le Tigre within 50 miles of me.
Give subscribers a server that doesn't crash during office hours.
And finally, toss of this stupid idea that you are exclusively a dating service.
Friendster, feel free to email me the check when I save your company. Happy Thanksgiving.