Friendster, the once high-flying social network, has recently found its wings clipped by money problems and long load times. Though the site was once hailed as the “next big thing” on the Internet, the crown was quickly passed to MySpace instead (recently gobbled up by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.). Friendster hasn’t had any such luck, despite putting themselves up for sale, but they have received some recent good news: more venture capital is coming, and a key patent application has been approved.
The patent covers “A System, Method and Apparatus for Connecting Users in an Online Computer System Based on Their Relationships within Social Networks.” Friendster wants to be sure that you grasp this fact.
Friendster, an online community that connects people through networks of friends, announced today that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has awarded a new U.S. Patent titled “A System, Method and Apparatus for Connecting Users in an Online Computer System Based on Their Relationships within Social Networks” (Number 7,069,308). The patent, which was awarded to Friendster and lists Jonathan Abrams as the inventor, outlines a system, method and apparatus for connecting users in an online computer system based on their relationships within social networks.
Clearly, Friendster’s recent job cuts (down from 57 to under 30) have taken a toll on the PR staff, but the approval of the patent could give the company a major cash boost if it decides to pursue litigation against other social networking sites. Friendster president Kent Lindstrom remains coy about whether this will happen, but it’s hard to imagine that Friendster would not try to cash in. After all, investor Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers encouraged the company to start filing for patents when it first funded them. That was four long years ago, and Lindstrom tells Red Herring that he was surprised to find a patent from those early days finally approved. “Frankly we?d almost forgotten about it,” he said.
Friendster has also fixed problems with the site’s speed, problems big enough that load times once routinely hovered at 40 seconds. Lindstrom says that he never really figured out why this happened. “I wish I could explain why—I have no idea why it happened. For a number of reasons we had trouble scaling for almost a whole year.” Fortunately for him and for the company, the problems have been fixed, more cash is in the coffers, and a key patent is in the company vault. That’s enough to make any executive feel friendly.