Sassa will hand the reins to Taek Kwon, an executive vice president at Citysearch.com, on June 13. Sassa's reason for leaving is personal, according to a venture capital backer of Friendster.
"For his own reasons, it's just not a fit for him right now, and he's moving on," said Russell Siegelman, managing partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a Friendster investor. "It's unfortunate, but the company will move on."
Friendster, based in Mountain View, Calif., did not make Sassa available for an interview.
Sassa had been president of entertainment at NBC for three years beforein June. Before NBC, he worked for nine years at Turner Broadcasting System, where he oversaw the launch of cable channels TNT, Cartoon Network and Turner Classic Movies, according to a biography of him on Friendster's site.
When Sassa joined Friendster, he replaced then-CEO Jonathan Abrams, the company's chairman and founder, and pledged to make Friendster a major consumer brand. At the time, the company was facing a crop of new competitors and declining traffic. In the past year, competition has only intensified, with.
Social networking emerged a couple of years ago as a way for people to interact with friends and acquaintances online and browse profiles of their friends' contacts. Friendster was a, but the company is grappling with how to make money and fend off rivals.
Under Sassa, Friendster introduced an ad-driven business model that it says has boosted revenue, but the company is still searching for the right formula, Siegelman said.
"Nobody yet knows what social networking is at this point," he said. "We're in the second inning. We're all trying to figure out what it is people like about social networking--what works and why they come back."
Sassa's resignation was accompanied by a small staff cut, a Friendster representative said. The company dismissed five employees from its 50-person staff in an effort to cut costs.
Kwon is in charge of products and technology at Citysearch, an Internet portal and cities guide. Before that, he worked at travel discount site Hotwire, where he served as vice president of operations and engineering. Sassa plans to stick around for a few months to help with the handoff.