This is exactly the kind of action that makes people have no respect for what corporations say: Friendster, which has made much of its ‘no fake profiles’ policy, is now allowing fake profiles as long as they’re sponsored by a paying advertiser.
From its earliest days, many Friendster members introduced fake profiles — known variously as fakesters, or pretendsters — into their networks of friends. Often, members posted profiles of their pets and linked to friends’ pets. But the service quickly demonstrated it didn’t see the humor when it began purging the network of the fakesters.
Yet now, the company sees little irony in cooperating with Anchorman developer DreamWorks in introducing the movie’s characters into the Friendster network. In fact, it says the move is indicative of a larger cross-promotional plan the company has undertaken.
“What Friendster is doing with these movie-character profiles is actually a brand-new paradigm in media promotion,” Friendster spokeswoman Lisa Kopp said. “We are working directly with a number of production houses and movie studio partners to create film-character profiles, or ‘fan’ profiles, that allow our users to share their enthusiasm about the film with their friends.”
The message I get is that Friendster is tone-deaf to how this looks to their customers. Why is it not OK to put up a profile for a (real) pet bird but OK to have a profile of a fake anchorman for a not very funny summer movie? Oh right, money.
It’s been widely reported that all of the ‘social networking’ companies are having an issue trying to figure out how to make them profitable. This is one way of generating income that doesn’t require a full-out pay for content model, and in that sense it’s not a bad idea. But the hypocrisy inherent in the process does leave a bad taste in my mouth.
I’m probably not their target customer anyway. I signed onto Friendster a year or so ago. I was familiar with the “fakesters” on Friendster, even linked as a friend to the Howard Dean profile. As the Wired article mentions, it was a way of establishing community and saying something about myself by my choice of association. But ultimately, I gave up on Friendster and stopped visiting. The site was too static, didn’t really allow for much interaction – in short, I found it boring.
I prefer Orkut, which has user-formed community groups and message boards – much more interactive, much more interesting. It’s not a major part of my online activities, but unlike Friendster, Orkut is interesting enough for me to keep visiting & contributing to the site. Orkut is also invite-only, which helps keep the trolls out.