Saturday, June 30, 2012

Friendster, I Miss You

If I could turn the World Wide Web back to a time in its history, it would be 2003.

As unimaginable as it is, then there was no Facebook. No Youtube. Not even - horrors - Gmail. Yup, once upon a time email had a storage limit of 2MB.

In those days, online interaction took place primarily through MSN Messenger, or ICQ for some quainter folk. Everyone went bonkers over cool new emoticons, saving and sharing them with much gusto.

For funny/cool videos, you had to visit specialised Flash and video sites such as and Well, they were definitely upfront about being slacker sites. Most people had a designated folder for video clips shared through email or MSN Messenger.

And of course, the mother of all social networking sites - Friendster. What could Friendster do? For starters, it was the easiest way for anyone to create an online presence. Self-made domains (Angelfire and Geocities, anyone?) required actual technical know-how and blogs asked for too much content. Now finally you could have all your friends together in a community, each with their customised profiles and photos for you to pore over. Photos and profiles aside, one thing that made Friendster truly special was the testimonials.

For those whose memories have been blurred by Facebook or who never knew, testimonials were a passage you wrote to describe / complement / reminisce about your friendship with someone. Generally, the length was indicative of your degree of friendship. Rumours once abound of a three-page testimonial. A most unfortunate later innovation would happen - forwarded testimonials mostly consisting of teddy bears, angels or smileys formed by punctuation marks.

Oh, how I miss the testimonials. The utter joy of having a friend oblige your request with a painstakingly crafted piece, detailing how you first met. Feeling a warmth creep into your heart as they describe the little things about you that they cherish. All topped with a cheese-laden wish for lasting friendship. Those were less jaded days, when the Internet was a heaven-sent tool for connecting with friends.

Today, the tool has become an over-convoluted Swiss army knife. I'm tired of the endless stream of crass jokes, profanity, pictures, videos, songs, game requests, news articles, links etc that greet me daily. We no longer communicate through words but media. Somewhere, we have traded our emotions for emoticons.

Today, we keep in touch by viewing each others' photos and posts. We find common ground by sharing the same media and joining the same groups. We show appreciation for one another with a simple Like. All too easy, too automated.

If Facebook introduced testimonials today, would they still work?

Probably yes. But only if they were limited to 140 characters.

Here's the Friendster, and a time when the Internet brought us all closer. 

And in case you didn't know, Friendster was relaunched in June 2011 as a social gaming platform. Save for a minority of informed users who backed up in time, all old Friendster user profiles have been permanently deleted. Including testimonials. :(

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