Back in the year 2006 MySpace was the coolest kid on the social network block. Forget going to night clubs or the mall, the young generation were starting to hang out in a more public place, online.
“My social life pretty much revolved around MSN and MySpace in college, now I can’t even remember those passwords,” said Christopher Hayduk, 32, a city worker from Vancouver, BC in a Skype interview.
Hayduk’s sentiments about MySpace pretty much sum up the former social media giant’s chaotic and relatively short lifespan.
Founded in 2003, MySpace rose to popularity at a time when people were just discovering the benefits of connecting online. It offered users the opportunity to create a profile, list interests and meet others. Time magazine even named MySpace one of the top 50 ‘coolest’ web sites of 2006. Fast-forward just a few years later though, and the same site was struggling to survive. At the height of its decline it lost over ten million users in one month, according to ComScore figures reported by the Daily Telegraph. So, the obvious question here is: what the heck happened? How does a site degenerate into a has-been, and could it ever pull off a Mickey Rourke-like recovery?
Some blamed the demise of MySpace on its traditional corporate structure that began with its takeover by Newscorp in 2005. Then between its quick sale and resale by Newscorp it lost its hip image, drive and most importantly, the passion of its users.
However, according to Marcus Messner, a professor of social media and mass communications at Virginia Commonwealth University, the death of MySpace was primarily due to a lack of innovation and downright laziness on the part of the company.
“MySpace became complacent and did not innovate, other social networks like Facebook constantly change,” said Messner.
That’s why it’s difficult for old-school users like Chris Hayduk, to imagine using MySpace to the same degree he did back in its heyday.
“There’s nothing I can do on MySpace that I can’t do better somewhere else, on some other site,” said Hayduk.
But MySpace is still striving to find a new niche, and this time it has chosen to focus on music and television. Pop sensation and new MySpace co-owner Justin Timberlake unveiled the new direction of the site at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. MySpace television and music sharing allows people to suggest music and watch shows with their friends. Instead of offering friendship networking, the site offers a communal entertainment experience. It also offers up-and- coming artists a place to showcase their work. What’s so new about this you may ask? Well, that’s just the thing said Messner, not much is new at all.
“These changes are in a niche and at a very low user rate…MySpace has already tried to reinvent itself as a music portal under Newscorp.”
Indeed, MySpace is like an adolescent trying to find its place in a very changed world. It has gone back and forth from one niche to another for half a decade. People are fickle, the future is now and we all want the very latest. This isn’t the year 2003; we live in an age where the average household has more than one computer. Or, as Messner puts it,
“Just think about all of the changes we have gone through during just the last few months. MySpace lost its appeal, one demographic at a time. Facebook first won over college students and then moved from generation to generation until everyone had a Facebook account.”
In fact, the coolest thing about Facebook, which ultimately knocked MySpace off its throne according to Messner, is that it wasn’t really trying to get you to do anything. Facebook started out simple and focused, much like Twitter a few years later.
“I first liked Facebook because I could creep on people….I mean I could waste hours just looking at useless stuff about people,” said Chris Hayduk.
It seems that many are more entertained by the lives of acquaintances and friends than the latest television drama.
“If people want to watch videos, music and television, that’s what YouTube is for,” said Hayduk.
Confusion seems to be what killed MySpace. That is, confusion as to what they are as a social media site and what they want to become. Messner points out that a social media platform needs to constantly re-invent without irritating its users to a point where they will leave.
For instance, Google Plus seemed to pose a serious challenge to Facebook when it was released last summer. But Facebook reacted quickly and implemented its own changes to face this challenge by the largest Internet company in the world. Just look what this has done to Google Plus… after much initial hype it is still a tekkie platform that has not attracted the average internet user to stay around.
“In contrast to MySpace, Facebook has managed to defend its lead because it has maintained an innovative culture while being on top,” said Messner.
Or, to put it simply in Hayduk’s words,
“MySpace is just so 2000.”