Friendster was founded by Canadian computer programmer Jonathan Abrams in 2002, before the wider adoption of MySpace (2003), Hi5 (2003), Facebook (2004) and other social networking sites. Friendster was one of the first of these sites to attain over 1 million members, although it was preceded by several other smaller social networking sites such as SixDegrees.com (1997). The name Friendster is a portmanteau of "friend" and Napster. Napster at the time was a controversial peer-to-peer file sharing Internet service that was launched in 1999; by 2000, "Napster" was practically a household name, thanks to several high-profile lawsuits filed against it that year. The original Friendster site was founded in Mountain View, California and was privately owned. Friendster was based on the "Circle of Friends" social network technique for networking individuals in virtual communities and demonstrates the small world phenomenon. Friendster was considered the top online social network service until around April 2004 when it was overtaken by MySpace in terms of page views, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Friendster.com went live in 2002 and was adopted by 3 million users within the first few months. Publications including Time, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, US Weekly and Spin wrote about Friendster's success and the founder appeared on magazine covers and late-night talk shows. Friendster's rapid success inspired a generation of niche social networking websites including Dogster and Elfster. Friendster had also received competition from all-in-one sites such as Windows Live Spaces, Yahoo! 360, and Facebook. Google offered $30 million to buy out Friendster in 2003, but the offer was turned down. Friendster was then funded by Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers and Benchmark Capital in October 2003 with a reported valuation of $53 million. Friendster's decision to stay private instead of selling to Google in 2003 is considered one of the biggest blunders of Silicon Valley, the Associated Press claims. In April 2004, John Abrams was removed as CEO and Tim Koogle took over as interim CEO. Koogle previously served as president and CEO at Yahoo!. Koogle was later replaced by Scott Sassa in June 2004. Sassa left in May 2005 and was replaced by Taek Kwon. Taek Kwon was then succeeded by Kent Lindstrom, following a recapitalization by Kleiner and Benchmark that valued Friendster at less than 5% of its 2003 valuation. In 2008 Friendster had a membership base of more than 115 million registered users and continued to grow in Asia. According to Alexa, the site has suffered an exponential decline in traffic in America since 2009. From a peak 40 ranking it reached 800 in November 2010. Most people have since attributed this decline to the rise of Facebook, a rival social networking site. In August 2008, Friendster hired ex-Google executive Richard Kimber as the CEO. Kimber focused on Friendster's expansion in Asia. On December 9, 2009, it was announced that Friendster was acquired for $26.4 million by MOL Global, one of Asia's largest Internet companies. In June 2011, the company repositioned itself as a social gaming site and discontinued user social network accounts, but Friendster accounts have not been deleted and users can still log in using their existing passwords. Users' contact lists will be preserved, along with basic information. Friendster said that the focus would now be on pure "entertainment and fun", and the aim is not to compete with Facebook, but rather to complement it. On June 14, 2015, the site and all its services were shut down indefinitely.
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