The Fakester Genocide and Revolution

When Friendster eliminated the “most popular” feature in May 2003, they also deleted both Burning Man and Ali G, each of whom had more than 10,000 friends. This was the start of a Whack-A-Mole–style purge of Fakesters, in which Fakesters and Friendster competed for dominance. Fakester farms were created and Fakester owners would duplicate their Fakesters for rein- sertion. In late June, a group of Fakesters gathered on the Friendster bul- letin board (and later in a Yahoo Group) to begin “the Fakester Revolution” that would end “the Fakester Genocide” (see Figure 8.5). They crafted “The Fakester Manifesto” (Batty, 2003) “in defense of our right to exist in the form we choose or assume” which included three key sections:

1. Identity is Provisional

2. All Character is Archetypal, Thus Public

3. Copyright is Irrelevant in the Digital Age

Roy Batty, a leading instigator in the revolution and the author of the manifesto, helped organize and publicize the Fakesters. In mid-August, both Salon and SFWeekly published extensive write-ups of the Fakester antics entitled “Faking Out Friendster” and “Attack of the Smartasses” (Miesz- kowski, 2003; Anderson, 2003). The war between the Fakesters and Friendster was discussed on mailing lists, via the bulletin boards on Friendster, and over the watercooler. Needless to say, this incensed the company even more. As Friendster increased their crackdown, many of the practical Fakesters disap- peared, even though few users objected to these Fakesters and most found them valuable. Regular participants who used nonrealistic photos (like “Mer” in Figure 8.6) were also deleted. Friendster capped the number of linked Friends as a stopgap measure against the Fakesters, resulting in more frustra- tion and hysterical posts. One bulletin board message was titled “Friendster Won’t Let Gay Pride Make New Friends!” (message from “Gay Pride,” August 16, 2003.

In retaliation, Fakesters created Fraudsters, who impersonated other people on the service. Fraudsters were meant to confuse both the Friend- ster service and serious users. A Fraudster impersonating the site’s creator, Jonathan Abrams, contacted many of his friends and other users on the service with fraudulent messages. was created to insert another type of fake profile into Friendster. Pretendsters combined random photos from the Web and random profile data. They were not fraudulent portrayals of any particular person, but automated Fakesters that mimicked real profiles.


Although Fakesters had taken on a collective impression of resistance, their primary political stance concerned authenticity. In discussing Fakesters, Batty was quick to point out that there’s no such thing as an authentic per- formance on Friendster—“None of this is real.” Through the act of articula- tion and writing oneself into being, all participants are engaged in perfor- mance intended to be interpreted and convey particular impressions. While some people believed that “truth” could be perceived through photorealistic imagery and a list of tastes that reflected one’s collections, the Fakesters were invested in using more impressionistic strokes to paint their portraits. If we acknowledge that all profiles are performative, permitting users to give off a particular view of themselves, why should we judge Fakesters as more or less authentic than awkwardly performed profiles?


An interesting and obscure bit of Social Networking history.

Folksonomies: revolution technology social networking history

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Friendster:Company (0.874168 (negative:-0.331314)), Fakesters:City (0.750754 (positive:0.218894)), Roy Batty:Person (0.359716 (neutral:0.000000))

Social network service (0.969384): dbpedia
Friendster (0.880603): website | dbpedia | freebase | yago | crunchbase
OpenSocial (0.835243): website | dbpedia | freebase
Fraud (0.772945): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Bulletin board system (0.691970): dbpedia | freebase
Online social networking (0.613793): dbpedia
Web 2.0 (0.609207): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 None of This is Real: Identity and Participation in Friendster
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Boyd, Danah (2007), None of This is Real: Identity and Participation in Friendster, Retrieved on 2013-08-05
Folksonomies: social networking social structures