Anyone who had Internet access early in this decade remembers the Great Friending of 2003, when just about everyone was sending out Friendster Friend requests and attempting to see who could amass the biggest list. But then came the question: what, exactly, does one do with this? Friendster's buzz quickly died down, and most of us went on with our lives.
So why does everyone waste huge chunks of time on Facebook, which, superficially at least, looks a lot like Friendster? My theory is that Facebook's greatest innovation was the status update: it gave you a reason to check in with the site regularly, both to update your own status and to check on the status of others. Friendster had no equivalent, at least at first, and it was Facebook that occupied the social networking spot in most of our hearts.
Friendster hasn't gone away, however; in fact, it's hugely popular in Asia, and claims to have more members than any other social networking site. Still, I have to wonder how many of those are like me, who occasionally get an email from Friendster with a reminder about a friend's upcoming birthday and think, "Wait, this still exists?"
(Picture is a screenshot of the author's Friendster profile, which still exists, apparently)