Ode to an Era

Here’s a fact that’s hard to fathom in these late days of 2015: MySpace (remember that?) was once the web’s most visited site, surpassing even Google. Also, MySpace employed 1,600 and generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.myspace_logo

I have nostalgia for the old MySpace. Like for many, MySpace was my first, full-blown introduction to social media. My reasons for joining were basic. It was the mid-to-late aughts, I was single, living by myself in a city that rolled up its sidewalks by 7 p.m. and was snoring complacently by 7:15 p.m. In other words, I thought it might be a good place to meet women.

Social media was big, but hadn’t truly gone mobile. The place to update your status was on your desktop at work, not on your phone in the bathroom.

But during those lonely, bad old days, MySpace introduced me to folks and their interests, and made me feel a little less isolated. I had a creative outlet where I could blog. I could, to some extent, personalize my page.

The introduction of playlists on MySpace was great — we were able to share music in a simple, off-the-cuff way. I place the blame for my introduction and brief obsession with Morrisey’s “Find Out For Yourself” squarely on the shoulders of a MySpace who lived in Mexico of all places, and with whom I connected with totally by accident.

Plus, I got to be friends with Tom. You remember Tom, the guy who you were friends with by default, and couldn’t figure out why. Tom was the company’s co-founder, and we all had to be friends with him, whether we wanted to or not. Tom got crazy-rich when he sold his goofy social network to News Corp.

In 2007, however, I started noticing a change in MySpace. The wallpaper was frequently taken over by garish advertisements for movies I had no interest in seeing, for one thing. For another, the whole experience was getting a little too noisy. I felt like I was staring into some amped-up billboard every time I logged in. It was time to start seeing other social networks.

Besides, there was this emerging social network called Facebook that, by contrast, seemed simple, understated and — I dare say — elegant by comparison. This was back when Facebook was still being targeted toward a younger crowd, long before it had been embraced by people like your parents and Ben Carson supporters.

So, I migrated. So did a lot of other folks, including Tom, who wrote in a 2011 Facebook post: “People seem very confused why I’m on Facebook. I’ve had a profile since 2005 and a “fan page” since 2009. … Why am I not on MySpace? Because, I left the company in early 2009, and like most of you, I don’t like using it anymore.. not a fan of what the new folks have done with MySpace.”

Tom hasn’t appeared to have posted to his public Facebook page since 2014, but still has nearly 1.5 million followers. None of those follower were by default, either. He’s since taken up photography and has been traveling the world. One assumes that he fuels his private plane with raw cash — seeing as how he sold in 2005 his company to News Corp. for a half billion.

Meanwhile, the network he started resembles nothing of what it looked like 10 years ago. MySpace was purchased in 2011 by Tim and Chris Vanderhook and Justin Timberlake for $35 million. It’s their space — music and entertainment oriented.

That’s not to begrudge them any success — with 50 million unique users recorded in November 2014, MySpace appeared to be on the edge of a renaissance. But it’s not the same. MySpace now brands itself as a place where artists can connect with an audience (or rather, consumers). It’s not such a hot place for average schmoes to connect with each other.

I will say this, their ’80s hair metal channel is pretty amazing, but between Spotify, iTunes, Beats, YouTube, the whole thing seems redundant.
So with its A&E focus, will MySpace be around in another 10 years? I think the more appropriate question is: Will it matter?

John Swinconeck

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