Whatever Happened to..?
The Rise and Fall of Myspace
Like the memory of an old girlfriend, unceremoniously dumped for a newer, sleeker model, some older Facebook users may remember a time when they only had eyes for Myspace. While secretly Googling to see if their old Myspace profiles are still around, they may ask: “whatever happened to Myspace?”
The good news is Myspace is still around, the bad news, though, is that she’s with Justin Timberlake now.
Myspace was the first mass-populated global social network, and between 2005 and 2008, could do no wrong. Boasting over 100 million users at the height of its popularity, and a net worth of almost $12 billion, Myspace was the byword for online interaction and the spokes model for the second generation IT business boom. That is, until Mark Zuckerberg got drunk one night and changed everything.
Myspace was developed by the small IT group eUniverse, in 2003, taking elements of proto-social networks such as Friendster and livejournal, and stabilising these platforms with the Coldfusion design program. Together with an emphasis on customised graphical elements and various music and publishing applications, the Myspace model offered users an online platform to express their individuality and connect with friends and strangers alike. The site was popular with musicians and creatives in promoting their work, and for the average user, it was the first exposure to how easy and engrossing fully interactive online living could be.
In 2006 the site recorded its 100 millionth user, and a $580 million deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, in view to establishing the Myspace brand globally, particularly inChina, heralded the seriousness with which traditional business regarded the potential of online social networking. Murdoch had big plans for Myspace, even establishing Myspace runners Chris De Wolfe and Tom Anderson (the veritable face of the site) in the News Corp executive hierarchy. A billion dollar advertising deal with Google and an attempted merge with Yahoo (through News Corp) helped Myspace reach the pinnacle of its tipping point in 2008. Facebook going live that same year pushed Myspace over the edge. A reluctance to accept evolutionary change and embrace simplicity, both hallmarks of Facebook and Twitter, forced Myspace out of the game.
One of the more specific criticisms of the Myspace model was the over-customisation of profile pages, allowing users to design and tweak the look of profiles with often badly designed and buggy applications that struggled to upload into inadequate browsers on primitive internet connections. In between their Icarus-like business naivety, and some undue privacy and pornography scandals, Myspace ultimately broke the most basic rule of social networking: don’t alienate your customers with bells and whistles, especially if they don’t work properly.
Systematically, as Facebook and Twitter flourished between 2008 and 2011, Myspace, rich but riddled, haemorrhaged users, advertising, employees and the good graces of Rupert Murdoch. By the end of 2011, the company had lost $165 million, 65 million unique users, dwindled a workforce of 1,600 down to 220 and bared the shame of being pawned off by a frustrated Murdoch to Justin Timberlake’s Specific Media Group for $35 million, well below the asking price of $200 million.
Surprisingly, with that sort of pariah status, Myspace today still survives, largely in more regionally-focused sites, such as China and Russia, as well as, under the keen eye of actor/musician Timberlake, re-marketing itself as music sharing platform similar to Bandcamp.
An ever-optimistic Timberlake, no doubt inspired by some strange sense of meta-irony in his portrayal of internet prospector Sean Parker in The Social Network (a film about Facebook) is wholly committed and involved in making Myspace the go-to site for social networking in the music business, telling MTV News in January 2012, “I don’t have anything on my plate other than think-tanking a lot of different ideas for Myspace… (we’re bringing it back.)”