MySpace is Dead

Posted by Administrator | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 01-12-2006-05-2008

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I hate to break it to you Rupert… but MySpace is dead. Well, at least it is in the process of dieing. Rupert, I know you’ll tell me that MySpace is still one of the most popular websites on the Internet. You will tell me that it has tens of millions of loyal users (and growing). And you’ll also tell me that the smartest fund managers and financial gurus in the world praise you for stealing a multi-billion dollar Internet property for less than $600 million. But if you listen closely you’ll hear the fat lady warming up her vocal chords, and she’s about to give a great performance.

So, Rupert, let’s start with your first claim, that MySpace is one of the most popular websites on the Internet.

I can’t argue with this one. It surely is. I also know that it is responsible for a large chunk of Google searches. But do you remember the Altavista sensation of the late 90′s, during the Internet boom? Probably not… my guess is that you weren’t the Internet mogul then that they say you are today. Altavista was an immensely popular search engine that became popular VERY quickly thanks to the viral nature of the Internet. Despite the fact that, for a while, Altavista didn’t even own its own domain name (www.altavista.com), it proved that an online application that is much better than everything else out there will become popular quickly… simply because it is much better than the second-best option.

So what happened to the darling search engine that both the web geeks and the web masses adored so lovingly?

Google.

Google came online with this massive marketing machine and just promoted the heck out of themselves to steal market share from Altavista. Right? Well, not exactly. A couple of students launched Google, and without much marketing, Google came to be the most popular search engine on the Internet. Few people remember Altavista. Altavista wasn’t the first search engine, just like MySpace wasn’t the first social networking site… but Altavista ushered in a new era of search engines similar to how MySpace ushered in a new era of social networking… but because NEITHER of these two companies were/are truly great companies, the former became completely insignificant, and so too will the latter.

I can see you now, Rupert. Sitting on your executive leather chair, behind your big, masculine desk, which probably doesn’t even have a computer on it… talking to your MySpace chiefs.

You’ll say something like: Our user-base is growing like crazy, traffic is swelling… let’s just stay on course guys. Keep operating expenses low and focus on selling ad space. No creative missteps here… just stay the course and don’t do anything to rile the base.

Hannibal the cannibal couldn’t have said it better if he tried… despite the brilliance of Anthony Hopkins.

Rupert, MySpace hasn’t had any substantial interface changes in years. It’s impossible to navigate the darn thing… even for someone who has overseen the development of thousands of websites! It’s just not intuitive.

While FaceBook is slaving away, addressing detail after detail of user experience (advanced privacy features, a constantly tweaked UI, improving server-side performance, etc), MySpace just leaves well enough alone. Any social networking site by its nature will have an element of chaos… the goal of course being to maintain a concept of “organized chaos.” But the problem with MySpace is that it’s not organized at all… it’s just chaos. MySpace doesn’t help me to organize my world… it helps me to build a list of friends (many of whom i’ve never met, and never will meet)… while Facebook is actually trying to help me organize the world around me based on various spheres of influence.

FaceBook addresses the element of community… my community, which is complex and ever-changing. MySpace is all about linear relationships, with no profound contemplation of community.

When I log in to MySpace, I see 500 spam messages from computer hackers and guerilla marketers trying to get me to add them as a friend in my profile. Of course, these computer hackers and guerilla marketers have profiles with pretty sounding feminine names and pictures of attractive women. They think that because I am attracted to the fairer sex, I’ll add them into my profile as a friend, thus giving them access to spam all of my other friends. In sum… a cheap experience. In FaceBook there is none of that. FaceBook is a controlled, well-organized community. MySpace is just chaos.

FaceBook started out as “College students only,” but now it is growing. Alumns can join, and so can companies (and their employees). My guess is they won’t stop there. MySpace started as “all things to all people,” and despite the perception that it’s for high schools, a large percentage of its users are over 35 years-old.

What else does MySpace have to worry about? The long-tail.

What’s the long-tail? Arguably the most important concept in Internet communities. The basic premise is this… be a big fish in a small pond, rather than a small fish in a big pond. If you are a retailer, for example, rather than opening up one big sporting good website… you open up a website for fishermen, and you craft a unique shopping experience for this very specific audience. Really focus in on their particular needs. The brilliance of FaceBook is that, even though it is big, it does go after the long-tail based on the way it designs its networks. It allows me to join a “Boston” network for example, or my company network, or a “group” of people who believe in community activism (MySpace has groups… but it just isn’t the same). And again, I can do all this without the fear of spammers and manipulators.

But FaceBook’s ability to employ the long-tail concept is not MySpace’s only threat. Whenever a massive phenomenon like MySpace hits the Internet, it is an absolute guarantee that copy-cats will follow, but Internet copy-cats are smart because they get the concept of the long-tail. They know they cannot beat MySpace at its own game, and so divide-and-conquer kicks in. One student entrepreneur starts a social networking site for high school students in his home town. A web company starts a social networking website for baseball players. Another company starts a social networking aimed at yuppies. Yet another starts a social networking website for retirees. And slowly but surely, all of these individual, small social networking websites offer a better experience to its users than those users could get at a generalist website like MySpace.

As for those who want to be involved in a BIG social network that everyone is a part of… we’ll have those too. Applications that work better and faster than MySpace (like FaceBook), and perhaps, applications the aggregate data from many different small social networking websites to create one big community from many very small communities will come about.

MySpace lacks direction. And it’s not that MySpace can’t smarten up and change. By all objective accounts they are on top of their game. But if you really follow the social networking sector, and if you’ve really followed MySpace over the past few years, you’ll see very few signs that MySpace, under the leadership of Rupert, is actually a GREAT company. I’m not saying it is a bad company… i’m just not saying it is a GREAT company. You don’t have to be a GREAT company in a mature market to succeed, but you do have to be a GREAT company in an ever-changing market to succeed, and I just don’t see that greatness in MySpace. In fact, I see nothing but slow servers, an antiquated user-interface, and an abstruse, jumbled user-experience. MySpace no doubt has great programmers, server people, and staff… the question is, do they have good leadership?

So while MySpace boasts huge user acquisition, I encourage everyone to ask the question:

Do these NEW users stay and play? Or, do they sign-up, browse, and decide MySpace isn’t for them?

MySpace knows the answer to these questions. They know the percentage of their huge user base that is active, versus passive… I wonder if they will share that with us anytime soon.

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