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VCs back Friendster

Let a million fake IDs bloom!

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Unemployed HTML coders, take heart: gullible Venture Capitalists can again be tapped for cash to bring implausible business plans into life.

The phenomenal popularity of the Friendster social network where people meet online friends has prompted Silicon Valley fund managers to give the Bright Young Things another chance. Some 1.8 million identities - many of them fictional - haunt the Friendster network.

Friendster received $1m in private equity from three investors including the co-founder of PayPal earlier this month, and Kleiner Perkins and Benchmark have apparently coughed up $10 million more.

But why is that founders of social networks often seem to be the most anti-social people in the industry, as this delicious feature story in SF Weekly describes. The snarling founder of Friendster, Jonathan Abrams isn't a weblogger, but he has all the characteristics of a blog-bore: he can't stand criticism, and he can't get a date.

His policy of deleting fictional identities has riled his creative users so much that it's spawned a neologism - Fakester. Fakesters have their own manifesto, and the Fakesters even held a protest event in San Francisco at an appearance by Abrams at a Commonwealth Club 'Urban Singles' night earlier this month.

Abrams doesn't just hate Fakesters using Friendster because it makes his link-maps so dense (for example, everyone wants to link to 'God', or 'San Francisco'). He makes money by the degrees of separation between users: and users quite quickly realise they don't need a Dweeb sitting in the centre of this network, playing match-maker.

There's certainly a modest business model to be made from such software: British site Friends Reunited is the classic example of a social phenomenon that has successfully supported a mom n'pop operation (albeit by now a bloody rich mum and dad). The wonderful Hot Or Not also shows a simple idea can prosper, if it's good enough. ®

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