What happened to MySpace?

MySpace is an American social networking and lifestyle news site with a focus on music. The platform was founded in 2003 by Chris DeWolfe, Tom Anderson, and Jon Hart and by 2006, it received more traffic than Yahoo and Google. Over time its cluttered, non-intuitive interface, riddled with ads and compromised user experience helped its decline (and other social media companies like Facebook and Twitter took over). Parent company News Corporation contributed to this problem since its management had no experience in running a social media site.

Background

MySpace is an American social networking service that was the largest such site in the world from 2005 to 2008.

The platform was founded in 2003 by Chris DeWolfe, Tom Anderson, and Jon Hart. Users could create a personalized page using basic HTML or CSS and could add their favorite songs, posts, videos, and photos. 

In the early days, MySpace tended to focus on promoting musicians and up-and-coming talent. Indeed, acts such as Adele, Calvin Harris, and Panic! At the Disco all got their start on the platform.

MySpace grew rapidly after its launch in 2004 with 20 million users added by 2005. The following year, MySpace overtook Yahoo Email as the single most visited website in the United States.

From a peak of 115 million users in 2008, the MySpace user base started diminishing despite the best efforts of the company to remain relevant.

Let’s now chart the downfall of MySpace from social media giant to yesterday’s news.

Poor user experience and management

MySpace was acquired by News Corporation in July 2005 for $580 million, which immediately set about monetizing the platform to recoup the large acquisition cost.

Unfortunately, News Corporation was a media company that had no experience in building or maintaining an internet company. MySpace quickly became cluttered with ads, degrading the user experience in the process.

When the user base started to decline, this problem became worse as the MySpace investors tried in vain to bolster revenue.

MySpace was also poorly laid out and suffered from frequent technical issues that no doubt exacerbated the migration of users to other services.

Negative publicity

MySpace had a somewhat blasé attitude toward censorship at a time where millions of young users were flocking to its platform. While it did censor illegal content, content containing hate speech or nudity could be found relatively easily.

This point was highlighted in 2007 when it was discovered that thousands of known sex offenders were using the platform. In one example, MySpace was sued after a 49-year-old woman registered as a 16-year-old boy and caused the suicide of a 13-year-old girl. 

Similar protracted lawsuits ensued, costing the company money and severely damaging its brand.

Failed innovation and competition

MySpace also failed to develop a culture of innovation that would allow the company to remain competitive. 

A young Facebook, with its clean and organized interface, started to emerge as the social network of choice. It offered a far superior suite of ad targeting features for advertisers who were simply following the crowd. It also allowed users to connect and interact with real people using their real names – a requirement MySpace never enforced. With a similarly clean design and culture of innovation, Twitter was another service that added to the competitive pressure on MySpace.

In 2008, MySpace was overtaken by Facebook as the world’s most popular social media network. It then released its long-awaited Music product where users could listen to music and legally download it from the MySpace website. However, Music was full of bugs and for whatever reason, was not easy to find on the homepage. It was an expensive mistake, costing the company $120 million to develop.

The inability to adapt and innovate was also made worse by the speed with which MySpace fell out of favor. In the twelve months to March 2011, it lost a staggering 32 million users to other platforms.

Rebranding

After terminating over one thousand employees, News Corporation sold MySpace to Specific Media for a paltry $35 million.

With the battle against Twitter and Facebook lost, the new owners decided to focus solely on discovering new music artists and supporting them. The company continued to receive negative press, including a cyber-attack where 427 million passwords were stolen and the accidental deletion of 50 million songs during a server migration.

Today, MySpace continues to operate as a lifestyle news site with elements of music artist promotion.

Key takeaways:

  • MySpace is an American social networking and lifestyle news site with a focus on music. At its peak in 2006, it received more traffic than Yahoo and Google.
  • MySpace suffered from a cluttered, non-intuitive interface that was riddled with ads and compromised user experience. Parent company News Corporation contributed to this problem since its management had no experience in running a social media site.
  • MySpace was also subject to public and protracted lawsuits, with sex offenders known to frequent the site. It also failed to innovate successfully as competitors such as Facebook and Twitter started to emerge.

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