Ye Olde Social Network
Friendster is at once a thriving success and a robot-ruled ghost planet.
For an American ex-user, though, Friendster is the lonesome place. I like to imagine the site as a series of concentric constellations. The innermost space enfolds Friendster's quiet multitudes: a galaxy of ex-users whose junked profiles still float around the network, several sad years out of date. The next, larger ring contains the site's noisy, surging millions: the newly plugged-in users in Asia who, writing in Tagalog or Indonesian or Malay (or, most often, English), are obeying the apparently universal human impulse to create colorful, flirty online profiles for themselves. Further out, in the coldest and most distantly notional regions of the Internet, is my e-harem of robotic spam-slatterns. More than 100,000 users still join Friendster daily, which Jones, the Friendster VP, claims makes it harder to detect and delete the Charlenas. As long as real people keep coming, the robots will, too. Friendster wouldn't be the weirdly vital relic that it is—wouldn't be, period—without them both.
Correction, March 5, 2009: This piece originally misspelled the first name of model/actress Jaime King. (Return to the corrected sentence.)