There were a number of social media networks that captured the attention of consumers, at least for a time. Strategic planning, timing or just plain bad luck contributed to the failure of these social media networks to achieve staying power. Three in particular, remain in memory as fantastic upstarts that swept social media before the term became a part of daily life.
At one point, Friendster was considered the premier social media site. Within just a few months of its launch, the company had more than three million monthly active users. In 2003, Friendster's founder, Jonathan Abrams, was offered $30 million by Google to purchase the site. Instead, Abrams chose to take on venture capital investment and try to grow the company.
The company ended up falling apart. It was unable to manage the pace of new subscribers. Web pages routinely didn't load on time or at all. And a site redesign didn't seem worth bothering about.
Friendster pretty much died in 2006, though with a strong following in some of the Asian markets it managed to survive a few more years. In 2011, it resurrected as a gaming site and remained live until 2015.
Research has shown that the main reason for Friendster's demise is that while in 2009 it still had millions of users, the links were not strong between the networks people were creating.
Myspace burst onto the scene in 2003 when cofounders Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolf and their friends who were all employed by eUniverse, (now Intermix Media, Inc.) essentially copied Friendster's model, but left out the features they didn't like or didn't feel were necessary. Myspace focused on sound infrastructure and scalability. It became a place for users to build a personal community, house personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music, and videos.
In 2005, Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp. bought Intermix Media, which owned MySpace, for $580 million. By that time, the social network had more than 16 million monthly users. At one point under NewsCorp., the website was valued at a whopping $12 billion.
But, post-2007, Myspace experienced a fall from grace in the social media space, losing millions of users monthly to the rising site Facebook. Some reasons that have been discussed widely were an oversaturation of advertising, slow load times and a loss of innovation where features were concerned.
NewsCorp. sold Myspace to Specific Media for $35 million. Notably, entertainer Justin Timberlake took an ownership stake in the company. The new Myspace was focused on music where users could access millions of musical tracks and videos.
Myspace still exists today. Time, Inc. bought it from Viant (formerly Specific Media) in 2016.
While not a traditional social media networking site, Second Life was at one point one of the most popular ways to meet and interact with friends on the Internet.
The website launched in 2003 by Linden Lab as a virtual world based on 3D modeling. The site aimed to empower users with the ability to virtually interact with other people, participate in jobs and engage in other activities online through the use of an avatar.
The business model was different enough from Facebook that it never became a true direct competitor, but Second Life became so popular at one point that people began to make legitimate livings through their avatars. Some Second Life users even felt more at home with their virtual avatars than they did in the real world.
By 2013, Second Life had one million regular users.
Similar to Friendster, Second Life's rapid growth in users caused the company to struggle with the stability of its infrastructure. In addition, the company was forced to comply with international laws that tried to regulate the money and activities that users were exchanging through the website. Security issues arose as well as a host of others: pornography, intellectual property, fraud.
These factors, coupled with the high growth and user adoption of Facebook, caused Second Life to falter and lose users month over month.
Second Life remains operational by Linden Lab.