Reading the NYTimes Friendster post mortem , its 4 pages long, but the following paragraph jumped out at me as the most important.
Many people working at Friendster sneered at MySpace. The holy grail at Friendster — and the cause of most of its technical problems — was its closed system: users at Friendster could view only the profiles of those on a relatively short chain of acquaintances. By contrast, MySpace was open, and therefore much simpler from a technological standpoint; anybody could look at anyone else’s profile.
In less public spaces then the NYTimes business pages you hear a lot of gossip about Frienster, mostly the personality clashes and rock star egos, but I think it really was that simple.
Failure to do the simplest possible thing that will work, and a failure to be public by default. (though going to war with your users is never a winner) It hurts an engineer’s soul, but worse really is better. (thank goodness I’m not an engineer, just a failed lit major)