Friendster, in a bid for popularity, introduces 'Fan Profiles'

Flagging social network introduces new way for bands, celebrities, organizations to create profiles on the site. Unfortunately, it probably won't ameliorate its problems.

Onetime social-networking leader Friendster has announced a new feature called "Fan Profiles," which is essentially a way for celebrities, bands, companies, nonprofit organizations and other entities to self-promote.

Among "early adopters" of the new feature are Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, comedian Dane Cook, and pop-punk band Fall Out Boy, all of which now have "fan profiles" on the social network.

The formal announcement was made at a press lunch at the DigitalLife consumer technology trade show in New York on Thursday.

It's an ambitious move for the struggling social network, but one that likely won't give it more traction in its struggle to reclaim the market share it's lost to Facebook and Friendster, it should be noted, claims to have a solid footprint in the Asia-Pacific region (35 million of its 50 million users are based there), which led the company to introduce a Chinese version of the site earlier this week.

A Friendster 'fan profile' for a band Friendster

Unlike MySpace, which groups bands' and politicians' profiles along with regular user pages in members' friends' lists (that's why Barack Obama can be in your "top eight"), Friendster is attempting to differentiate itself by, well, differentiating.

A "fan profile" is a separate kind of account than a regular Friendster profile and is listed differently in friends lists as a result. The interface is slightly different, and there are more robust features for contact list management and mass e-mails. Fan profiles are better optimized for Web searches like Yahoo and Google--which, on the flip side, means that this could be a dual move to boost Friendster's traffic.

And it appears that not just anyone can get one. There's a special page where artists and organizations can request Friendster fan profiles.

But here's something in the Friendster press release that sounds a little bit questionable: "Fan Profiles contain a bulk invitation feature, which enables mass fan requesting via contact lists."

The phrase "bulk invitation" doesn't bode well, as this raises the possibility of mass spamming with the name "Friendster" involved. Additionally, "your fans receive updates every time you edit your profile, update your blog, upload photos or embed content."

This just doesn't sound like a good idea. People don't like to be the recipients of mass e-mails from social-media sites. Just ask Plaxo.

On the surface, the "Fan Profiles" launch doesn't look like it'll do much to ameliorate Friendster's problems. The social-media world could be surprised, for all we know. But it's highly doubtful.