Improving Friendster, an MIT approach contains ideas for improving Friendster collected from students in this semester’s 6.171.  Given how much press attention Friendster received last summer I thought folks would be interested.


  1. Keflavik

    November 24, 2003 @ 9:53 am


    A friend turned me on to Friendster a short while back. Amused with the concept I registered and began searching – I wanted to see if it was true, was Kevin Bacon really a separated from me by six degrees or less?? My hopes faded quickly as the site frustrated me. Arguably one of the slower sites I’ve seen on the net in my 13+ years using it, the lack of data integrity (features/data available sometimes, not others) was most frustrating.

    Phil: I recommend you contact them, alert them to who you are and your credential from the past. Offer to oversee a group of your students in a redesign of their site. Friendster will benefit from a responsive and scalable site that can grow. Your students will benefit from a real world project. And you will get, “See what this class can do for you!” propaganda with which you can market your courseware, books, etc.

  2. Colin Whittaker

    November 24, 2003 @ 2:34 pm


    regarding needing a router that understands /images/* URLS, surely the obvious trick is to use dns.

    so a URL for an image becomes
    This allows you to seperate this function cleanly. Oh and when your website takes over the world you can outsource serving the images to Akamai or similar

  3. Robert Sayre

    November 24, 2003 @ 6:51 pm


    I’ve been using Friendster for quite a while (id# 40k or so), and I’ve seen the site spit up quite a few error messages. One time, I even got a good old Tomcat stacktrace. As you said in the article, they should be ditching Tomcat. Furthermore, they were using multiple servlet filters. The spec leaves this area open as one of the more obvious areas for vendors to compete on. One can only conclude that Tomcat’s is among the slowest.

  4. Ian MacAllen

    November 25, 2003 @ 9:45 am


    So this post inspired me to go sign up at friendster, and when I emailed a few friends, they told me they had already signed up months ago, and my girlfriend even said that it had been all the rage but was no longer hip. Well Ive never been hip. But I must say some of the issues raised by 6.171 are very accurate, particularly the speed issue which is still the biggest drag. I’m still trying to track down my friends who are already members, but dont know how to add them…

  5. derek

    November 26, 2003 @ 7:57 pm


    Friendster is reinventing the wheel.

    Take the Amazon backend and fill it with people as the product, instead of books and flower pots. Instant community with the power of intimacy cataloging and purchasing.

    Problem solved.

  6. Phillip Harrington

    November 26, 2003 @ 10:47 pm


    When I first saw Friendster a year ago or so, I thought it *was* built by students, just not 6.171 students… 🙂 I was just there today though, and it was a little speedier. Maybe no one was on it cause of the holidays?

  7. Gregory Heller

    December 1, 2003 @ 1:40 pm


    Your students definitely came up with some good points;
    I would have to add a few, and am surprised they didn’t
    show up in your summary/highlights

    1) Sorting/organizing your friends: One student
    suggested being able to organize your friends, and
    another to sort and organize your bookmarks, but how
    about sorting friends? I only have 58 friends on the
    system, but I have trouble when I want to find one,
    they are in no particular order. This could get really
    interesting when you begin to think about the sorts:
    Alpha (First name or last name-What does last name
    disappear once you add someone?)(obviously), Geography,
    Age, When they were added, most popular (most views in
    the last week)

    2) When you want to make a bookmark visible after
    having made it invisible, it is not particularly
    intuitive. It would be cool to get a notification when
    someone has book marked you, so when you log in it says
    “X number of people of book marked you”

    3) The interest search really doesn’t work. I have
    “john Edward” as one of my interests, yet when I search
    on it, I get people interested in *john* and *edwards*.
    Values between commas should be treated as inseparable

    4) Compound searches: I want to search for single women
    looking for dating that are into a specific band AND
    live within a certain geographic distance from me.

    5) User Search should reveal simple info like age,
    location, home town to help you figure out which Bill
    Smith is your friend from elementary school.

    6) The ability to categorize your bulleting to make
    sorting easier from teh recipient’s perspective, as in
    “Party”, “Political”, “Announcement” “Wanted” or
    something like that. allows for “messages”
    and “listings” which is very convenient.

    I have written to friendster with some of these
    suggestions in the past, I have never received a
    response, even an auto reply from friendster.

  8. Aileen Tang

    December 4, 2003 @ 2:32 am


    i find it ironic that friendster’s vp of engineering is an mit course 6 grad, ’85. i guess we can excuse him for the slow site cuz 6.171 didn’t exist then.

    still… with an mit alum’s name on this site, more reason to help him out 😉

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