Deanna pointed me to The Visual Thesaurus which has a great interface for dynamically browsing this kind of network. It has a free online demo, but underneath is the proprietary ThinkMap® engine, which we can't just try it out.
It would be great to hook up these social networks with a dynamic graphing engine like that...
Danah (Zephoria) who is researching Friendster started me on some surfing which led to discovering that there already exists some commercialization of this social graphing stuff: InFlow - Social Network Analysis Software and Services by Valdis Krebs Danah's own work in this field includes a project called Social Network Fragments which is detailed in Chapter 7 of her thesis - Faceted Id-entity: Managing representation in a digital world.
There are alternatives to Friendster - including FoaF, Everyone's Connected, and Huminity (which provides some interactive graphing!) but the value of such a network, to a large degree, depends on how widespread it is and how low the barrier to adoption. In this regard, nothing currently compares with Friendster. Ryze and LinkedIn are varieties with more of a business relationship focus. Tribe.net supposedly focuses more on the groups that form in social networks.
2003.08.06 i got mentioned on Danah's connected selves blog: visualizing friendster and visualizing my data.
FoaF has something called the FoaF Explorer but it is text, not graphical.
Sean sent me a link to TouchGraph, an open-source Java-based graphing package. Looks really promising (!) though it is all in Java and i am a C++ person. Maybe it can be utilized without getting ones hands messy with Java - or maybe a Java person out there can try hooking up the output of the Friendster Spider to TouchGraph and share the results!
2003.08.13 i got mentioned on boingboing with ensuing discussion with a lively debate.
2003.08.14 Sean McCullough posted his own spider which is written (strangely..) in C# on SQL/.NET, though he plans to move it to Java. A cool thing is that it can spit out XML ready for display in TouchGraph - see his network running in a TouchGraph Java applet This is great, but it tends to get too slow when you try to view the second tier (2-hops).
Sometime in 2004, Friendster changed their web interface and my spider stopped working.
Sometime in 2005, Friendster themselves put a (java-based?) network visualization online, but it sucked - slow, unresponsive, and limited.
In 2006, jeffrey heer and danah boyd put together an academic paper and software project, Vizster, which looks fantastic, everything that my old Friendster spider could ever dream of becoming. The only trouble is (as of May 2006) it appears that Vizster isn't actually available.