Five years after dropping almost $600 million on a Web site few outside the Internet community had ever heard of, Rupert Murdoch is breaking up with MySpace.
News Corp has confirmed that it’s shopping for a buyer or possibly a merger for the once-dominant social network. (I understand it’s already gotten one very attractive offer.) That news comes a day after it announced it would be laying off nearly 50 percent of its staff.
All I can say is, don’t bump into the stripper pole on the way out.
[ See also: 10 stupid social media predictions for 2011 ]
I know, millions of people still like and use MySpace. But I don’t know a single one of them. Even my now 14-year-old son, who’d be online 24/7 and would surgically attach a laptop screen to his head if we’d let him, started a MySpace account and quickly abandoned it.
When he wants to watch video or listen to music, he goes to YouTube and Playlist.com. When he wants to annoy his friends or complain about his parents, he uses Facebook. MySpace has no place in his life. For that, at least, I am grateful.
Historically, MySpace grew so quickly because a) it put up absolutely no barriers to entry – just hand them an email address and you were in; and b) everything else available at the time was lame. Friendster? Six Apart? Tribe.net? Exsqueeze me?
But that very same laxness came to bite it in the hindquarters. With its near total lack of oversight, MySpace became a haven for pervs on the prowl and scammers on the loose. By the time it finally got its act together and started limiting access to the pages of underage members and hunting down the scammers, Facebook had already vaulted past it.
MySpace quickly became the social network for disaffected teens and adult entertainers. A Nielsen Claritas study in September 2009 confirmed the demographic split: Affluent urban Netizens used Facebook and Twitter; less urban less affluent Web surfers were more likely to be found on MySpace.
A series of truly stupid business decisions followed, capped by the so-ridiculous-it-qualifies-as-satire decision to rebrand MySpace as My______. That’s the worst branding move since Prince Rogers Nelson changed his stage name to an unpronounceable glyph. But at least The Artist Formerly Known As had a good reason (a legal dispute with his record company over who owned the name “Prince”).
MySpace’s reason? They didn’t know what else to do.
But for me, it’s the whole MySpace aesthetic I find hardest to stomach. If you held a contest for the Worst Design Ideas Brought Together in One Place, MySpace would win in a walk. The notion of music or video automatically playing when someone’s page loads may have seemed cutting edge when MySpace introduced it, but loading more than one page at a time brought my system to a screeching (and I do mean screeching) halt.
Even today, as I log in to my totally redesigned home page (for the first time in over a year), I can barely stand to look at it. For reasons that are unclear, my personal page is filled with updates on Cameron Diaz, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts and Yogi Berra (yes, really) that I did not ask for. There are “recommendations” for musical artists and fast food restaurants that bear the unmistakable aroma of paid-but-unlabeled promotions. It’s clear I haven’t missed much.
I feel for the hundreds of MySpace employees who got the sack this week, and the others that are sure to follow. I feel bad for the bands and their fans who thought MySpace was going to make them the Next Big Thing. But I don’t feel bad for MySpace itself. Maybe someone will resurrect it and build a site worthy of attention. But really, what’s the point?