With new language expansion, Friendster digs a hole to China

The onetime social-networking leader, having lost ground in the U.S. to Facebook and MySpace, sets its sights on China.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy

Social-networking pioneer Friendster might have been losing out to rivals Facebook and MySpace for some time now, but the company isn't giving up any time soon. The San Francisco-based company announced on Monday evening that its site is now available in traditional Chinese in addition to English.

This is a strategic move for Friendster, as numbers have shown that it's far from dead in the Asia-Pacific region, where 35 million of its 50 million users are based--in fact, ComScore numbers have indicated that with global growth taken into account, Friendster is growing more quickly than MySpace. Traditional Chinese, the company noted, is used by 16 percent of Internet users.

Unlike MySpace, which operates a number of international verticals in different languages, Friendster's Chinese version will exist atop the same domain as its English-language site. This way, English-speaking users will be able to network with Chinese-speaking users and vice versa.

According to a release from the company, "While other social networking sites create separate sites for different countries and make it difficult or impossible to have international friend networks, Friendster is the first global online social network to employ this approach to allow and encourage multi-cultural exchange and communications among users around the world who are interested in doing so."

Social networking's other big name, Facebook, does not operate any versions of the site in languages other than English.