Friendster relaunches new website; targets Asia for growth

By Michelle Orosa, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 06 2009 09:29 AM | Updated as of Dec 06 2009 05:54 PM

MANILA - Global social networking site Friendster launched Friday its revamped website in a bid to corner a niche market amid a growing stream of social media networks online today.

In a presentation to media, Friendster Inc.'s Vice President for the Philippines and Global head for Brand Experience Ben Dunn said improvements were made on the company's logo, applications, interface and color to make the website more appealing to the Asian youth, particularly from Southeast Asia, between 16-24 years old. This demographic, he stressed, has formed bulk or over 80% of Friendster's users in Asia, and still presents a large potential for future growth.

"We want to be the favorite network of the Asian youth," he says.

Foremost in Friendster's overhaul is its new logo. The Friendster wordmark is also housed within a green "word cloud", which represents communication within a community. Dunn said the logo as a whole symbolizes individuality, fun, and personalization among youth.

Dunn said the color green, from the previous blue, is a significant change. "Green reflects dynamism and boldness. We exist in a sea of blue, and using green sets us apart from the rest," he explained.

Friendster also simplified its website, emphasizing features favored by the online community such as shoutouts, profile personalization, photo sharing, games, finding friends, and messaging. It kept its customization option, allowing users to change their profile skins, which Dunn said is unique to Friendster since Day One.

New products were also introduced to the website based on the company's market research in Asia such as the Friendster Gift Shop, Friendster Games and the Friendster Wallet, which introduces pre-paid cards for various application upgrades.

The Friendster Wallet is powered via a partnership with MOL AccessPortal Berhad (MOL), a leading payments provider leveraging a network of over 500,000 physical and virtual payment channels worldwide.

"One of the things we found out is that credit cards aren't very many here in the Asian region. With the Friendster Wallet, we can now use prepaid cards purchased by the users to help them upgrade their applications. Eventually, we'll use this Wallet for the games coming in next year," Dunn said.

Social media trend

In 2003, Friendster pioneered social networking to the online community, setting trends for features like testimonials, shared photos and blogs but the onset of newer sites such as Facebook, Multiply and Twitter, among others pushed Friendster out of the spotlight for a time.

But Dunn said that Friendster was ready to educate social media again, by focusing on niche markets. He noted that networking sites today are broad-based, lacking a focused audience.

"Fragmentation is an emerging trend we're seeing in the online community. We're seeing users having multiple sites, using each site for a different need based on location, interest and demographic. There's room for everyone," he said.

Friendster is turning its eyes and efforts to the Asian market, where 40% of all net users or 660 million users reside. Dunn said Friendster is particularly focusing on the youth, aged 16-24 years old, as 80% of Friendster users in Asia fall within that demographic.

"The potential is huge. To date, only 16.5% of Asia is online," he points out.

Friendster looks at 2010 with optimism, with a whole platform of new games and applications to be relased by the first half of the year.

It seems that if there's any hard lesson Friendster has learned, it's the need and importance of constant innovation. A challenge, Dunn says, the networking site is ready to bounce back on.