Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Friendster’s Cautionary Tale Ends in $100 Million Sale

armadillos one hit wonders webThere aren’t a lot of start-up stories in which a nine-figure sale is considered a bummer, but this is one of them: Friendster, the site that once defined social networking, has been sold to Malaysia’s MOL Global at a fraction of its old value.

In case you don’t remember, Friendster was once the buzziest of start-ups. And in 2003, when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school and Twitter’s Evan Williams was still working on Blogger, the company turned down a $30 million offer from Google (GOOG).

That deal would be well worth more than $1 billion today. But reports peg MOL’s purchase price at about $100 million.

Today, Friendster’s primary role is that of a cautionary tale for Webby start-ups: Look what happens if you miss your window. “I don’t want to be another Friendster” is a well-worn cliché that still has resonance, and I heard it just the other week while sitting in the office of an Internet CEO whose company may be on the block soon.

Looking for a more positive spin this morning? Okay, try this: Friendster’s sale represents the Internet’s power to reinvent companies. Even though no one you know uses the site, it never went away, and it has quietly amassed a reported 100 million users, almost all of them in Asia.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work