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This article was published on April 25, 2012

As Facebook prepares to IPO, social trailblazer Friendster relaunches for the Asian gaming market

As Facebook prepares to IPO, social trailblazer Friendster relaunches for the Asian gaming market

The mighty Facebook finally filed for its $5bn IPO back in February, and whilst its going-public may now be delayed until June, another social networking, erm, powerhouse has announced that it’s pivoting and morphing into a social discovery and gaming platform.

Friendster was launched by computer programmer Jonathan Abrams (now of Founders Den) in 2002, and although it has had users all around the world, it has typically been popular in Asia, with the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore ranking particularly highly in recent years. Friendster preceded the likes of MySpace, Bebo and Facebook, and Abrams turned down a $30m buyout from Google in 2003…what could’ve been, eh?

Today, Friendster has announced its latest attempt at getting back on track, with a full-on redesign and relaunch as a social discovery and gaming platform “combining search, content discovery and social functionalities”.

Friendster says it will “host advanced ways of searching, engaging and making new friends”, all underpinned by a shared love of gaming. It comes complete with a new user interface, and lets users choose their avatar to suit their desired persona, and they can chat with friends via the Friendster Chat Application while playing games. It launches with more than fifty online games from eight different genres.

Friendster was acquired by one of Asia’s leading e-payment and e-lifestyle providers, MOL Global, in 2009, and at the time was still one of the region’s largest online communities.

“Friendster pioneered the social networking industry and paved the way for the emergence of other sites,” says MOL Group CEO, Ganesh Kumar Bangah. “As the global gaming communities grew, it was essential for Friendster to find its unique proposition in order to remain competitive. By leveraging on Friendster’s strongest asset in the form of its millions of users and harnessing MOL’s strength as an e-payments and content distributor, we were able to successfully redesign Friendster to become a social discovery and gaming platform, host to the largest online community in Southeast Asia.”

It will shortly be hosting its inaugural public event – Friendster FunXtion, on April 27 at the SM North Cyberzone Activity Area, Manila, Philippines.

Friendster still has more than 100m registered members, though there’s little indication how active these members are on the network. We recently reported that founder Abrams had accused Yahoo of copying Friendster, whose patents are now owned by Facebook.

Earlier this year, we also noted that MySpace still notches up more unique visitors each month than both Tumblr and Google+. It seems there might still be life in the old dogs yet. But then again…