Some years ago back in February 2004, I came across this little start up social networking site called MySpace. At first MySpace didn’t seem like much compared to its only potential rival Friendster which has been around for a while. Since I was a member of Friendster and a few other news groups and small social networking sites I figured why not join this other one and see what MySpace has to offer.
The MySpace of 2004 resembles next to nothing to the MySpace of today. You were only allowed a small handful of photos, you only had a “top 8″ for your friends and the only way you could get a fancy background, graphics or custom profile was if you actually knew how to code the HTML and CSS your self. It was fun, simple and little to no spam or phishing of any sort to worry about.
By word of mouth, MySpace started to spread on the internet. And with the help of some of its more famous members such as Tila Tequila, MySpace started to spread like a virus. It’s membership skyrocketed like no one has ever seen and support websites that taught people how to customize their profiles and even profile generators started sprouting up all across the net. Some of the better code generating sites were even able to charge for their layouts. MySpace was flourishing, people were making money and everyone was happy.
Welcome News Corporation and Fox Interactive Media
Things were going good for MySpace but unfortunately things were about to change.
Just like with every other social popular entity in the internet, MySpace started to get the attention of more traditional media companies who wanted a piece of the MySpace pie. In July 2005 News Corporation, the parent company of Fox Interactive Media purchased MySpace for a cool $580 million.
What seemed like almost over night things started to change for the popular social networking site. Storage capacity increased allowing unlimited number of photos to be uploaded, support of flash profiles, videos and music players. Profiles for famous musicians, comedians, celebrities even every day companies such as Nike, Coca Cola and Hollywood movie studios all were becoming standard on the site.
With all this popularity and media exposure it was only a matter of time before the criminal element started to make its appearance. News coverage of cyber stalking and pedophiles and political and religious hate groups appeared on the evening news at least once a week. Then came the spammers the phishers and all the fake profiles from dating and adult websites started flooding members inbox and friend requests. It got to the point where no one wanted to even log in or at most had to make they profiles private in hopes of avoiding all these scams.
Its safe to say the fun of MySpace was gone and all that was left was a corporate ideal of how a social site should be.
The Rise of Facebook and Twitter
Around the same time in 2004 another social networking site originally called thefacebook.com but now more formally just known as Facebook was started over at Harvard University. This was more or less a social site for Harvard students but eventually expanded to other college students then high school students and finally, to anyone aged 13 and over across the country.
Out of all the social sites on the internet the battle for supremisy was between Facebook and MySpace and in April 2008 Facebook took the lead. Facebook surpassed MySpace in number of unique visits a day with Twitter in a close 3rd and MySpace started to feel the crunch.
Members who were tired of all the commercialism, spam and lack of new features were being driven away in massive numbers to Facebook and Twitter. Twitter is a social micro-blogging site in its most simplest form. Members are only allowed to post 140 characters at a time so think of it as your status update on MySpace, short simple and to the point.
Now why is Twitter so important? Well lets just say this simple micro-blog has had enough influence on the net to make MySpace add a status feature which resembles Twitter and Facebook tried to buy Twitter but failed and shortly there after redesigned, to the hatred of most its users, their entire layout to have Twitter’esq features.
And lets not forget the “Evil Google Empire”, who a few weeks ago was talking down about Twitter, calling it a “poor man’s email system” conveniently just as Twitter was launching its new search feature. Sources say this is typical of Google to do when it feels a web property is a threat,;discredit the threat and then acquire the threat. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see Google place a bid for Twitter in the next few months.
Ok so the last section got a little off on a Twitter Tangent but it just continues to show how “simplicity of design and function” and non-commercialism is the key to a successful social network.
Facebook has luckily found this out early on with their Terms of Service mistake a few months ago where they changed their TOS to the uproar of all its users, so much that it made the nightly news and they had to change them back, to their new re-design which will also probably be reverted back to the original layout.
So the lesson for all social networking sites to learn here is that social sites need to listen to their members, and ask them what they want before changes are made. A social networks isn’t the place for commercials or a place for you to saturate with and bombard members with new movie premiers, music releases, dating services or other advertising campaigns. It’s the members that make the site a success not the corporations who buy them.
Too late for MySpace. It went from being that hip cool new club on the strip to being that 2nd class night club where all the 40 year old men hang out trying to pick up on the 21 year old girls that no one really wants to hang out at. Just not a fun scene anymore.