When Rudy Adler’s friend died last year, he was suddenly and painfully reminded of the shortcomings of social networks—Facebook and Twitter focus on connections between living people, but the deceased are stuck in what Adler describes as a “viral loop.” Users have complained of receiving invitations to “reconnect” with dead friends, or of getting a pre-arranged virtual birthday greeting from beyond the grave. “After our friend died, we all went to his Facebook page to share pictures and stories. But after a few weeks, the page was memorialized and his wall was shut down. All of those stories disappeared.” To memorialize a page, a friend or family member must fill out a form and submit the request to Facebook. Upon verification, the deceased user disappears from news feeds and will cease showing up in Facebook’s suggestions, and the memorialized page becomes accessible only to confirmed friends.
Adler, 29, together with friends Brett Huneycutt and Jonathan Good, recognized an opportunity. They quit their jobs—Adler at ad agency Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, working on campaigns for Levi’s and Nike; Huneycutt and Good at consulting giant McKinsey & Company—and convened in San Francisco in February 2009, moving into a house in the Mission.