The Now/ledge

A Guide to the 'Now' Revolution in News / by Alan Soon

Odd ending: Friendster sold to Malaysia’s MOL


Friendster’s long and colorful history just got a little more interesting.

The company, one of the grand-daddys of the social media revolution, has been bought by Malaysia’s MOL Global, a unit of online payment provider MOL AccessPortal. There was no mention of price, but a Reuters report previously put the number at more than $100 million.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Friendster was eventually bought by an Asian company since the region represents 90 percent of the firm’s 115-million member user base.

The question is: what in the world does MOL plan to do with Friendster? The press release accompanying the announcement had a hint:

“The new combined entity will now build upon that initial set of products to deliver a content distribution network and e-commerce platform, enabling a wide array of content to be distributed to Friendster’s community and monetize via micro-transactions using MOL’s payment platform. MOL will use the leverage of its physical distribution networks to localize and extend the online reach of social networking in Southeast Asia to the physical world through Tan Sri Vincent Tan’s substantial assets across Malaysia and the region, including retail franchises in Malaysia and across Southeast Asia such as Starbucks, 7-Eleven, Borders, Krispy Kreme, Wendy’s and Papa John’s Pizza, just to name a few.”

I’m cynical, but doesn’t that sound like a plan to distribute pre-paid micropayment cards off the counter?

If that’s the primary plan, well, good luck. MOL’s reach needs to go deeper and further than just Malaysia — and that won’t come fast enough to save Friendster from devastation brought on by Facebook in key markets like Indonesia.

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