It's another case of emergent social order, as users push right through norms to game a Web project through pranks, detournement, deterritorialization, and anarchism.
Friendster, network theory visualization application and social memerush, is even more serious: no more phantom identities. Slashdot debates the free speech versus property angle. Salon points to two large, different swathes of cyberculture, which are widening Friendster's straddle of them, quoting Danah Boyd:
the trouble with fakesters as part of the clash between the system's early adopters and the more mainstream audience that its creator hopes to appeal to as he works to turn it into an online dating business, not just a phenom: "He hasn't figured out how to build a model to allow the Burning Man people to have a play toy, and allow the Match.com people to feel safe."
Danah adds, rightly, that some made-up identities reflect useful social or personal objects or entities. This points to a third way, I think, between parody and persona - and probably to a new tool.
Friendster's CEO is clear:
"Fake profiles really defeats the whole point of Friendster," says entrepreneur Abrams, interviewed by cellphone as he waited to catch a plane in Los Angeles. "Some people find it amusing, but some find it annoying. And it doesn't really serve a legitimate purpose. The whole point of Friendster is to see how you're connected to people through your friends...