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Best of 2013: An Autopsy of a Dead Social Network

In February, following the collapse of the social network Friendster, computer scientists carried out a digital autopsy to find out what went wrong.

Friendster is a social network that was founded in 2002, a year before Myspace and two years before Facebook. Consequently, it is often thought of as the grand-daddy of social networks. At its peak, the network had well over 100 million users, many in south east Asia.

In July 2009, following some technical problems and a redesign, the site experienced a catastrophic decline in traffic as users fled to other networks such as Facebook. Friendster, as social network, simply curled up and died.

This is the company that famously  turned down a $30m buyout offer from Google in 2003.

(Friendster has since been rebranded as a social gaming platform and still enjoys some success  in south east Asia.)

The question, of course, is what went wrong. Today, David Garcia and pals at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, give us an answer of sorts. These guys have carried out a digital “autopsy” on Friendster using data collected about the network before it gave up the ghost. 

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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