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March 16, 2004
Jonathan Abrams at SXSW
Jonathan Abrams, the founder of Friendster, is giving a keynote at the SXSW conference. Unfortunately, I missed almost all of it because lunch went long. Here's what I heard...
Real vision of Friendster: Experience the Internet with your friends. That goes beyond dating. In 2004, we'll see lots of other applications.
Everything is different when you look at the net as social, using your social network as a filter. I look people and tell them I know someone who knows someone who knows you, and people are fascinated. [Seems irrelevant to me.]
He says Friendster is hiring. [If you're looking for an introduction, I have a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend who works there...]
Q: Was Six Degrees an inspiration?
A: 90% was addressing problems I and my friends had. But Ryze was an inspiration also. Another guiding idea: To reduce the level of stupidity on the Internet to the level of stupidity you have generally. I can't stop people from being an asshole. But on a computer, with the anonymity and without seeing reactions, people act that much stupider.
He says people want a "break up alert."
Q: You dispelled the rumor that you're a CIA front, but what branch of government do you represent?
A: There are bigger databases with more interesting information in them. What your favorite movie is really doesn't interest the government. [Unless it's The Battle of Algiers, etc.]
Q: What about fakesters (i.e., fake personages)?
A: We've been so busy with scaling that we haven't add functionality. But we'll be doing that now. We'll provide the features that some people use fakesters for (e.g., Burning Man, Stanford Alumni).
Q: Are you going to open up APIs?
A: I'd love to, but we have to deal with privacy and security issues.
A: Various politicians are using Friendster. Kerry, for example. Friendster is looking at allowing rock bands, etc., to be available on Friendster so you can link to them as a supporter. [Ah, mission creep!]
Q: Are you really only for the youngsters?
A: Right now our users are first adopters and skew young. But Friendster is for anyone who has at least one friend. If you're over 50 and are looking for a date...[Hmm, the dating purpose seems central to his thinking despite saying that it's about more than that.]
A: We won't sell your info. We will use it for targeting ads. And remember, you can delete your account at any time.
At the end, he gives out swag: Free Friendster condoms.
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