Ah, Myspace. Just the name makes me nostalgic. But seriously, let’s go back about 10 years to the beginning of what would become an earth-shattering digital phenomenon…social networking (dun dun dun). Myspace was a social media pioneer, if not the social media pioneer. Despite being virtually nonexistent at this point, Myspace paved the way for many modern social platforms. We can look at what worked, what didn’t, implications for the future, and most importantly, what our old friend Tom is up to these days.
Myspace launched in 2004 and was acquired by News Corporation just a year later for $580 million. From 2005 to 2008, Myspace was the largest social networking site in the world. In June 2006, it surpassed Google as the most-visited site in the United States.
For those of you who don’t know or frankly just don’t remember, Myspace incorporated a few key features. Users had a profile that included photos, a biography section, a music player, and customizable graphics. Users could post “bulletins” that showed up on the bulletin boards of friends, post comments, and eventually utilize an instant messaging component. I feel compelled to mention the “Top Friends” feature, in which members were able to list their friends in a pecking order of who they seemingly liked most that week (always second best, I’m looking at you Nicole from eighth grade). Myspace was also huge for the music scene and functioned as a self-serving advertising platform for those seeking publicity.
After 2008, Myspace began to dwindle. At its peak, the website was valued at $12 billion but sold for just $35 million in 2011. So, what went wrong and caused Myspace to fizzle?
- It didn’t adapt. Myspace was created with a target user audience of 13-18 year-olds in mind. As this demographic began to outgrow their high school mindsets of parties and punk rock bands, Myspace failed to appeal to their more adult interests and lifestyles.
- Poor design. The look of Myspace was unappealing, crowded, and rarely updated.
- Money hungry. Myspace felt pressure to drive revenue as other startups emerged and its focus became all about money. In 2006, Myspace did a deal with Google and basically doubled the amount of advertisements on the site. Pages were congested with ads, many of which promoted adult websites and featured sexually suggestive photos. Obscenity and an apparent lack of care for its users drastically tarnished the website’s reputation.
- Rebrand. In 2011, Myspace rebranded itself as a “social entertainment destination” rather than a social networking website. Loyal users felt betrayed and viewed Myspace as a sellout.
- Competition. Facebook operated alongside Myspace from the beginning. Facebook capitalized on Myspace’s mistakes and focused on a clean, user-friendly layout, constant innovation, relevant content that appealed to all ages, and a genuine concern for its users.
Myspace had a good run, but like anything else, its time had come. Facebook currently dominates the social networking scene, but who’s to say that won’t change in the next few years? The media landscape changes every day and it’s hard to predict what we’ll ‘like’ tomorrow. Oh, and I did a little research. Myspace founder Tom Anderson isn’t living in his car or flipping burgers at this point????he’s alive and well and traveling the world with the small fortune he made from Myspace. But remember, not all social media stories have a happy ending. Watch out Mark Zuckerberg, you could be next!