With Friendsters like this, who needs Enemysters?

Unless you’ve spent the last few months living on the moon, you’ve heard of Friendster — the funky, upbeat site for hooking up with like-minded, amiable folks. Fittingly, the original investors in Friendster were also, in real life, actual friends themselves: Jonathan Abrams, who runs Friendster, and Reid Hoffman and Marc Pincus, who respectively run the alternate social-networking sites LinkedIn and Tribe.net. All very chummy.

Until, of course, the money comes along — and the daggers come out. Now that the sites are scrambling for venture capital, the founders are practising all manner of bullet-time CEO jujitsu. While Abram was off securing another $13 million in financing from Benchmark Capital and Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, his pals Hoffman and Pincus were sneaking around behind his back: They formed a limited partnership to secretly buy up a $700,000 patent on the “Six Degrees” technology that underpins all three sites. Obviously, if they own the technology, they could drive Friendster out of business in a flash. As ZDNet reports:

“I didn’t involve Jonathan because I thought Kleiner and Benchmark would try to bid me out,” Hoffman said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” Hoffman described the Six Degrees patent as “central to this field.”

I wonder if Abrams is off erasing the testimonials he wrote on Friendster for his good pals Hoffman and Pincus?

(Thanks to Jeff Heer for finding this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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