Many-many-many years ago, when I was a little kid (and everybody was expecting me to become the great man... that I'll never be), the only way to have friends from other countries was not Internet... - Of course! There was no Internet back on those days (and not even PCs on every home as now... will my kids believe that???) -. So, if you wanted to have an overseas friend, all you could do is to PAY for the privilege to an institution called IPFS - The International Pen Friend Service that sent you in response (by snail! - i.e. surface mail) a list of other kids who wanted to have friends from your country... It's funny to see that they have a web page now. I suppose they don't charge anymore for their service!
Anyway, modern times had changed that concept (forever) and nowadays if you want to have a new friend you just use MSN Messenger (or any other messenger) and use the search option. BUT, you can never know if the person who is contacting you is who he (or she) pretends to be. Is she actually the nice 15-year-old girl she says she is? Or is she rather a 40-year-old-lolita-complex-man pretending to be a girl?... That's why a new idea is now flourishing: friends-networks. Now, if you want to have a new friend, you just have to contact a friend of a friend of a friend (up to 5 or 6 levels) on any of those networks. This will result on a REQUEST for that person to accept you on his/her list. If the person trusts on your friends network, he (or she) will accept your invitation, and now both will be able to interact. Is it safe enough? I'm not sure. But is the same as in eBay: the more positive reviews you have, the easier it'll be for others to trust you.
BTW, I have just opened a Hi5 account. Anyone there, just contact me by sending an invitation, and I'll see if I decide to trust your profile...