We bet you still remember the time when good ol' Friendster was one of the "in" things in the Internet. Then, Facebook happened, which obviously isn't a particularly good thing for the web's social-networking pioneers. So, in a bid to get back on track, Friendster has just relaunched itself as Southeast Asia's premiere social discovery and gaming platform.
Back in late 2009, Friendster was bought by MOL (Money Online) which is Asia's leading e-payment service provider. It's old news that the site is now known more as a casual gaming destination rather than a place to write comments or, um, testimonials. This relaunch, however, announces changes which, according to Friendster, will help it to offer users "a unique experience which combines search, content discovery, and social functionalities." The upgrades focus on the site's interface and community interaction features which include the following:
- An innovative, user-friendly interface
- A load of avatars to choose from which you can use to represent your online gaming self
- The Friendster Chat Application which lets you chat with your friends while playing games on the site
- Connect to the site via, surprise!, Facebook Connect
- A rewards system which lets you earn, er, rewards by accumulating points through doing in-site activities (i.e. adding friends)
- A global games leader board
As Eat Bulaga's Jimmy Santos would say, "sounds family?" It actually is, with Facebook, through its partners like Zynga, already doing some sort of casual and social gaming of its own for some time now. To differentiate itself, Friendster is gunning more for the "anonymous" gaming scheme, something that isn't quite the case with Facebook. Just think of the numerous FarmVille or Tetris Battle posts we see on our News Feed from our friends. With Friendster, you can choose an online persona, complete with your own avatar, and play games without having to send out annoying updates to your friends.
Friendster also prides itself in having many payment schemes (thanks to MOL) to buy, say virtual coins you can use to purchase in-game goodies. However we're not sure if that's really a big deal given that we're a price-sensitive lot. There are now over 50 games you can play via Friendster, with more coming each month says MOL's Group CEO Ganesh Kumar Bangah. Android and HTML 5 games could also be introduced in the future.
It's a drastic change for Friendster from strictly being a social-networking site to a casual gaming portal. Our little crystal ball can't tell us if this will truly make it very popular again, or that this is just, as they say, delaying the inevitable. Whatever it is, it's good to know that, at least for now, Friendster is here to stay. Who knows? Maybe we'll see a big time resurgence of sorts. Stay tuned.