Proliferation of the internet has been good for John Guare. His play - and, let's face it, the more popular movie starring Will Smith from the days when he did serious flicks - "Six Degrees of Separation" has spawned entire subcultures from its central theme, that being roughly that every person on the planet is connected to you through a maximum of six people. Yes, even Kevin Bacon. Call it natural social networking. Websites like Friendster have helped propagate the concept to good end and good profit.
Inspired by a Palo Alto, California, social mixer and his own skepticism regarding online dating (he is often quoted in press today describing the scene of 2001 as "creepy"), modern-day Friendster founder and CEO Jonathan Abrams came up with the idea for the site that would become www.friendster.com: a place in cyberspace where people would meet people just as they did in non-virtual reality, i.e. via friends. Abrams developed the prototype alone before calling for investments.
Abrams has kept Friendster admirably streamlined. Though exact figures are a closely guarded secret, one online estimation put at eleven the figure of engineers employed at Friendster; of start-up costs no reliable information exists. Friendster does no hard advertising and has never sent out an official press release. As in a real-life social network, it's all about word of mouth.
Amidst the mysteries, however, it is known that as of 2004, the 'site had four million members crossing those separating degrees. Today, visitors to www.friendster.com are greeted with the notice that some nineteen million members and twenty-one million profiles await within their database. Friendster has become so huge that there are subcultures within the subculture. A current trend with the virtual community is the simple acquisition and collection of friends. Therefore, tipsters and articles aplenty have emerged regarding strategies to attract more to one's profile.
A group known as "fakesters" has also come to light. These are friendster users who play a role of a famous person, usually political or celebrity, and are usually quite the draw. Hey, who wouldn't want to hear the intimate thoughts of Saddam Hussein or Madonna or Fidel Castro? My Friendster search found several Jesus Christs. Now I'm very confused.
Friendster has become a prototype for many similar 'sites that followed and thus offers many of the features seen before. A key part is naturally composition of interest lists, linking essentially virtual fan-club members thanks to a simple Friendster search. Friendster has appealed especially to the twenty-four- to thirty-five-year-old market and reports high popularity in cities. San Francisco and New York stand out among the fashionable cities.
No wonder it has become the virtual home for so many. Though we all may be separated by six connections, only in the twentieth-first century has the technology become available for Guare's astute observation to be brooked. One log on to www.friendster.com and you're one degree closer to me and John Abrams and maybe even the Bacon man himself.