The Curse of Friendster Testimonials

Testimonials are anchored on sheer flattery.
Testimonials used to be a feature of an ancient website called Friendster. For the lucky people who never got the chance to be part of Friendster's past, a testimonial is a short piece that describes the "remarkable" qualities of a person. The idea behind it? It was supposed to validate the authenticity of the account - an attestation that you're a real person and not some bot.

You've read it for 10 times and it still felt like you're on Cloud 9. Your high school crush called you cute in a testimonial on your profile. Truly, it's enjoyable to read nice stuff written about you. It's also a quick peek on how you're being perceived by your friends.

When it's your turn to write - you'll mention how your friend saved a poor kid from a rabid dog, what expensive upgrades he added on to his car, how he managed to not study and still get an A+ - all with the hope that your friend will write a similarly gleaming testimonial for you in return.

Sheer Flattery

The model didn’t work because the approach was anchored on sheer flattery. It's like you were a product that had to be promoted. Add him or keep him as your friend, you won't regret it! People don't do it that way, well unless you're a fledgling author and you need to build credibility to sell your books.

It ended up becoming a popularity tool - more testimonials, the better. The fad had been so great that some websites began selling testimonial templates.

The Wall

Facebook reworked the concept by putting up The Wall. A person's interactions with his friends speaks volumes about how he is perceived by his peers, and how he treats them back. It's raw, genuine and informal, as opposed to superficial write-ups.

The Wall went on to become a key piece of Facebook. And the rest is history.

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