10. Appendix 1

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10. Appendix 1
Table of content 1. Introduction and problem statement ........................................................................................... 3
2. Method Choice ............................................................................................................................... 4
3. Theory............................................................................................................................................. 5
4. The history ..................................................................................................................................... 6
4.1 Beginning 1998-2005 ................................................................................................................ 6
4.2 Greatness: 2005-2008 ................................................................................................................ 7
4.3 The fall: 2009-2012 ................................................................................................................... 9
5. Analysis......................................................................................................................................... 10
5.1 The initial success of MySpace ............................................................................................... 10
5.1.1 Friendster .......................................................................................................................... 10
5.1.2 Music and fans .................................................................................................................. 12
5.1.3 The cluster effect ............................................................................................................... 13
5.1.4 Customization of profiles .................................................................................................. 13
5.1.5 Comments and sharing ...................................................................................................... 14
5.1.6 Summery ........................................................................................................................... 14
5.2 Usability ................................................................................................................................... 15
5.2.1 Mark-up code injections.................................................................................................... 15
5.2.2 Analysis of an example page ............................................................................................ 16
5.2.3 Blinkies ............................................................................................................................. 16
5.2.4 Facebook’s clean design ................................................................................................... 16
5.3 Making the social content dynamic ......................................................................................... 17
5.3.1 RSS.................................................................................................................................... 17
5.3.2 Facebook’s News Feed ..................................................................................................... 18
5.3.3 Dynamic social content ..................................................................................................... 19
5.4 The News Corp era .................................................................................................................. 20
5.4.1 Profit Pressure ................................................................................................................... 20
5.4.2 Management Changes ....................................................................................................... 21
5.5 Safety ....................................................................................................................................... 22
5.5.1 Hackers and spammers...................................................................................................... 22
5.5.2 Child predators .................................................................................................................. 23
1 5.5.3 Why MySpace? ................................................................................................................. 24
5.6 Demographics on MySpace ..................................................................................................... 24
5.6.1 Facebook for the upper-class ............................................................................................ 25
5.6.2 Maturity ............................................................................................................................. 25
6. Discussion ..................................................................................................................................... 26
6.1 Friendster ................................................................................................................................. 26
6.2 News Corp ............................................................................................................................... 27
6.3 Safety ....................................................................................................................................... 27
6.4 Dynamics ................................................................................................................................. 28
6.5 Usability & Demography ......................................................................................................... 28
7. Conclusion .................................................................................................................................... 29
8. Perspective ................................................................................................................................... 30
9. Bibliography................................................................................................................................. 32
10. Appendix 1 ................................................................................................................................. 38
11. Appendix 2 ................................................................................................................................. 48
2 1. Introduction and problem statement
By Nina
“The thing about user adoption and user departure is that it's not a steady flow. Think of it as,
you're knitting a beautiful scarf, and you're knitting and knitting, and you get a bigger and bigger
scarf. Then someone pulls a loose thread at the bottom. And it all unravels."
- Danah Boyd
At its peak in 2008, Myspace.com was the world’s most popular social network. 2 years later, it
could be described as the “graveyard” of social networks.
The initial inspiration for this paper came from a short video at new.myspace.com introducing what
is to become “the new MySpace”. Watching it, we remembered MySpace from our early teens, as
one of our first encounters with social network sites. This sparked our interest in the reasons for
MySpace’s rise to popularity, but even more in the causes of their infamous downfall.
Examining material from researchers, journalists and bloggers, we found that the most commonly
given reasons for the fall are: The social content on MySpace not being dynamic enough,
mismanagement once News Corp. bought the site, bad design choices resulting in lack of usability,
lack of safety on the site, as well as the demographic distribution of users. In this paper we wish to
analyze these five reasons and discuss which ones we believe to play major parts in MySpace’s loss
of market share.
When talking about the rise of MySpace, it inevitably leads to talking about Friendster, the popular
social network and dating site predating MySpace. And talking about MySpace’s fall in popularity,
one cannot avoid talking about Facebook.
The underlying basis of this paper will be in the Western world. Foremost, the majority of sources
available on the subject are written by American authors. Secondly, MySpace as well as Friendster
and Facebook are American companies, with largely American investors. With social media, the
choices of American users often define what the rest of the world will use.
This leads us to our problem statement, which is articulated as following; what factors contributed
most to the rise and fall of the popular social network site MySpace?
3 2. Method Choice
By Sine
When approaching a subject that is relatively recent and that we have personal experience with, it is
important to remain as objective as possible. You run the risk of letting your experiences inform
your research. Even if we did qualitative focus groups or in-depth interviews with formers users,
which can usually be a good way to ascertain why users choose other options, there is a possibility
that we either influence them unintentionally or that the public opinion of the last decade would
color opinions negatively. When trying to shed light on a situation that happened in the past,
interviews will often include a measure of hindsight, and not what was actually happening at the
time.
We had ways of gathering information in order to be able to answer our problem statement.
We discussed using a quantitative method, such as an online survey to answer some of our
questions, but we believe our options were limited in regards to age, country and socio-economic
status. It’s unlikely we would be able to survey a wide enough sample in the allotted time span.
Also, if we had done a quantitative survey, we would have run into some of the same problems with
hindsight and subjectivity that we would have had with qualitative focus groups or sample
interviews.
By letting an expert interview guide our research, analysis and discussion, we were able to maintain
a much larger perspective and reasoning.
We decided to interview Irina Shklovski on the basis of her vast research experience within social
media networks, consumer choices, media attention and user demands. Based on her research
papers, we categorized her as an expert in the field.
The interview was conducted by Sine over the span of one hour. The physical location of the
interview at ITU was important to us, as points could be expanded upon as they were made, as
opposed to an e-mail interview. The interview is enclosed as appendix 1.
Irina was able to clue us into many stories about MySpace, which we would not otherwise have
encountered. Our initial instinct was that the design of the site was the most important aspect of the
4 MySpace/Facebook competition, but Shklovski directed our attention to static vs. dynamic content,
usability, safety concerns and demographical differences.
3. Theory
By Sine, Thomas
Our choice of method greatly influenced the theory we chose to be the most relevant. Throughout
the paper, we have cited Danah Boyd. Boyd is the former colleague of Shklovski and one of the
foremost researchers in “social media, youth practices, tensions between public and private, social
network sites, and other intersections between technology and society.” (Danah.org).
Boyd is a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media,
Culture, and Communication at New York University, a Visiting Researcher at Harvard Law
School, a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center, and an Adjunct Associate Professor at the
University of New South Wales.
According to the article Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship, written by Boyd
and colleague Ellison (2007), a Social Network Site (or SNS) is defined as a “web-based services
that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2)
articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their
list of connections and those made by others within the system”. This means that a site wishing to
function as a SNS must maintain profiles of every user and their actions, relations and connections
between those profiles to, in turn, create a possibility for networks to arise. Social Network Sites is
a relatively new phenomenon, first appearing in the late 90’s and gaining popularity throughout the
00’s.
In her research papers from 2006-2010, Boyd examines the different aspects of Social Media
Networks such as Friendster, MySpace and Facebook and discusses their relative merits as well as
their faults. We chose those theories and discussions to inform our analysis and eventual discussion.
We supplemented these theories with a number of relevant contemporary articles and analytical
theories when they were needed. Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s article “The Rise and Inglorious Fall
of MySpace” is an example of an article we’ve used to get relevant quotes and inside information
5 about the people behind the organizations. A Trent Lapinski exposé was equally useful to get a
more varied look at the actors involved in the major decisions.
To a minor degree, we’ve also used the theories on subcultural capital as described by Sarah
Thornton, networked publics as described by Boyd, as well as O’Reilly’s theories on Web 2.0.
To analyze the usability and design of MySpace, almost at the height of their popularity, we used a
sample profile page from that time. We then subjected it to a minor visual analysis to ascertain its
design and information structure and whether it worked in a design sense, especially after having
been subjected to changes from the user.
4. The history
By Sine
In this section we will provide an extensive introduction to the major players involved with
MySpace over the span of more than a decade. We have noted down the biggest events and biggest
competitors, as well as the most important numbers. This is to establish a common understanding
and reference for the later analysis and discussion.
4.1 Beginning 1998-2005
Brad Greenspan was head, founder and Chairman of Intermix Media, Inc. (formerly eUniverse), “a
multimillion-dollar marketing and entertainment company known for pop-up advertising,
unsolicited mass emails, spyware, and the adware behind controversial peer-to-peer file sharing
network Kazaa” (Lapinski, 2006) founded in 1998.
Chris DeWolfe was VP of Sales and Marketing at Xdrive Technologies, a company that offered
millions of users large amounts of free online storage at the site MySpace.com in 1999-2001
(Lapinski, 2006).
Tom Anderson, the later first “friend” on MySpace, was originally hired as a copyeditor in
DeWolfe's marketing department at Xdrive. Xdrive did not fare well after the dot-com bubble burst
and DeWolfe created a new email marketing company that was then bought by Brad Greenspan and
Intermix Media in 2002 (Lapinski, 2006).
6 Friendster launched in March 2002 as a social dating site (Lapinski, 2006). Chris DeWolfe had been
a Friendster user for four months, when in August he joined up with Brad Greenspan and Tom
Anderson along with a small group of Intermix Media coders, and MySpace.com launched after
only ten days of development (Lapinski, 2006). At first it was a site for Intermix Media employees,
but using Intermix’s 50M e-mail database and 18M regular web users, the site officially launched
for the public in January 2004 (CrunchBase). In February, TheFacebook.com launched at Harvard
and MySpace had already gained 1M unique users (TheAtlantic, 2011)
Tom Anderson became President and DeWolfe CEO. The site was built using ColdFusion, a
simplistic programming language (BusinessWeek, 2011). DeWolfe stated that "ColdFusion, even
back then, in the engineering world, was thought to be a sort of Mickey Mouse type of technology.
But it was so easy to use that we could just crank it out quickly. We blew out Friendster. We blew
out Tribe.net. We blew out everyone." (BusinessWeek, 2011). Accidentally, they allowed users to
insert Web markup code, permitting users to play around with the background colors and
personalize their pages, an accident that became a leading feature (BusinessWeek, 2011). DeWolfe
initially wanted users to purchase profiles but Brad Greenspan argued against it (BusinessWeek,
2011). From January 2004 to July 2005, MySpace hits exponential growth, reaching 22 million
unique users by approaching different musicians such as REM, Hillary Duff and Tila Tequila
(TheAtlantic, 2011) as well as MySpace phenomena such as Lily Allen and Sean Kingston
(CrunchBase).
In July 2005, News Corp, headed by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, bought Intermix Media for
$580M. DeWolfe and Anderson received an additional $50M each for selling their majority share
hold to News Corp, instead of the other suitor Viacom. According to TIME Magazine, Murdoch
was applauded for snatching the deal of the (early) century (TIME Magazine, 2011). Within a year,
the website was valued at around three times the purchase price and traffic had more than doubled
(BusinessWeek, 2011).
4.2 Greatness: 2005-2008
Even though Intermix Media had been sued for illegal pop-up advertising by New York State and
forced to pay 7,9M, they owned the fifth most-viewed internet domain in the US (BBC, 2005) and
in September 2005 MySpace held 27M users (The Atlantic, 2011), beating out Friendster (1,5M
users) and Facebook (11,1M users) (USAToday, 2006).
7 In August 2006, Google made a $900M agreement to provide search and advertising exclusively to
the MySpace site, which was set to expire in June 2010 (CrunchBase). MySpace then launched
Chinese and European versions (BusinessWeek, 2011). Because of the popularity of music
streaming, Universal Music Group sued MySpace for copyright infringement in 2006. In June
MySpace announced that it would block adults from contacting 14- and 15-year-olds without
knowing their e-mail address or full name, making privacy settings available for all users, and block
alcohol and tobacco advertising for underage users (CSOOnline, 2007). MySpace was lauded as the
most popular website on the Internet in the US, surpassing Google Search and Yahoo Mail and
achieving 80% of social network traffic in July 2006 (Mashable, 2006).
On August 9th 2006, the 100 millionth account was created and Murdoch announced that they were
expecting $500M in revenue (Seeking Alpha, 2006). Six months later, they reached 150M
members. In May, MySpace acquired photo sharing company Photobucket for $300M
(CrunchBase).
While 2007 showed MySpace in its prime, there were early tell-tale signs that the demographic of
MySpace was changing. The Media was tentatively questioning whether Murdoch was going to
reach the expected 1 billion in revenue, since Facebook had opened their previously exclusive
college network to the public and allowing developers to build applications for users in May
(TVNZ, 2007). MySpace was conscious of the advancement of Facebook and joined a Google
hosted alliance between Bebo, Friendster, LinkedIn and other social networks to align standards for
software developers to be able to write applications for the sites (NyTimes, 2007). MySpace was
still ahead of Facebook in users, but Facebook was growing at a more rapid pace, with 50% growth
compared to MySpace’s 35%. Also, MySpace saw a decrease of 30% in users under 18 (MSN,
2007).
2008 held several big moments for MySpace. In April, MySpace announced both major music and
TV rights and distribution deals, settling lawsuits in the same swoop (Stepforth, 2011). Facebook
and MySpace were now tied globally for monthly visitors, both serving 115M users. MySpace still
has significantly more US users, 72M unique views compared to Facebook’s 36M views
(TechCrunch, 2008).
In mid-2008, MySpace participated in a major site redesign. Throughout its history, critics have
often cited the chaotic and disorganized interface as a severe drawback to usability of the site. This
8 redesign made the main page more streamlined and clean (CrunchBase). In December 2008,
MySpace peaked with 75,9M unique page views in the US (BusinessWeek, 2011).
4.3 The fall: 2009-2012
2009 was the year when things started to go wrong. In February 2009, Facebook had overtaken
MySpace with 200M to MySpace’s now 130M (TheAtlantic, 2011). In March, three senior
employees left the company to go launch a startup (TheAtlantic, 2011).
In a highly publicized firing, CEO and co-founder Chris DeWolfe stepped down just one month
after the other’s departure (Huffington Post, 2009). DeWolfe was replaced by former Facebook
employee, Owen Van Natta, and Tom Anderson was demoted to a lesser role in the company
(CrunchBase). In June, MySpace laid off 30 % of its staff, going from 1.420 employees down to
1.000, as well as an international staff cut from 450 to 150 people (The Atlantic, 2011).
After failing to hit traffic targets for their deal with Google, News Corp. received $100M less than
anticipated and when the story broke that MySpace was paying 1M in rent a month for an unused,
overambitious office complex, shares plummeted (Financial Times, 2009).
In 2010, CEO of only 10 months, Van Natta resigned, frustrated by the lack of recovery and was
replaced by Mike Jones and Jason Hirschhorn (CNET, 2010). MySpace's monthly unique visitors
had declined to 120M worldwide, compared to Facebook's 471M visitors (The Star, 2010).
The 2008 re-design of MySpace borrowed heavily from Facebook and you could now share content
to Twitter and Facebook (PC World, 2010). Combined with their publicly criticized new logo
(TechCrunch, 2010), featuring a gap instead of the word space (my___). Mike Jones commented
that “MySpace is a not a social network anymore. It is now a social entertainment destination.”
(Telegraph, 2010). This meant that MySpace was no longer a genuine competitor to Facebook or
other social media networks.
In January 2011, MySpace let 47 % of their work force go (Huffington post, 2011) and the
following month, News Corp declared that they were ready to sell MySpace (USAToday, 2011).
After numbers that MySpace was down to 45M unique page views (Business Insider, 2011), some
9 speculate that it would sell for as little as $50M (Forbes, 2011). Others speculate that the spurned
DeWolfe was among possible buyers.
In June 2011, Specific Media acquired MySpace for a reported $35M (TechCrunch, 2011).
Musician and actor Justin Timberlake was involved in the purchase and holds ownership in the
creative future of the site (CrunchBase).
5. Analysis
5.1 The initial success of MySpace
By Melissa
In this section we want to analyze the reasons and causes behind the initial success of
MySpace. There are many factors involved with the success and when addressing the causes, it is
impossible not to mention another big social network site at the time, Friendster.
5.1.1 Friendster
Friendster was founded in 2002 by programmer Jonathan Abrams and had gained 3M users after
only a few months (NyTimes, 2006). Because of its early adoption of online social networking, it is
now considered to be the “grandfather” of social media sites. As mentioned in the overview,
MySpace founders were aware of the popularity and sought to emulate the best features while
improving their site for mass consumption.
By all intentions Friendster was created for people who wanted to meet potential partners – it was a
dating site. However, some people discovered the opportunity of finding and connecting with old
friends they had not seen nor heard from in a long time (Boyd, 2007). This was one of the features
that brought people to the site, but other issues resulted in great user losses when faced with
competition.
5.1.1.1 Subcultural capital
Thornton (1995) describes subcultural capital as “ the cultural knowledge and commodities
acquired by members of a subculture, raising their status and helping differentiate themselves from
10 members of other groups”. As Friendster grew in popularity, the site lost subcultural capital with
the early adopters. As Friendster was further developed, Abrams sought to simplify the site,
removing features and limiting options (Boyd, 2006). It appears to be counter-intuitive that users
would dislike simplicity and generic profiles, but subculture is about letting users define the culture.
Having an easy-to-use, free-for-all site can attract new users, but turns away those who have already
figured out the site. Boyd argues that the “hacking” aspect and shared learning-curve involved with
understanding MySpace and the myriad of features and options it provided, created a subculture
where teens could identify other hardened MySpace users by their proficient use of the site and
weed out the newcomers who did not understand their culture. This is much more important to mass
users than visual coherence and simple navigation (Boyd, 2006). When Friendster chose to restrict
the activity of their most passionate users, Friendster was no longer the “cool” place to be (Boyd,
2006).
5.1.1.2 Slow servers
Slow servers as a result of the rapid growth were also a problem for Friendster (Boyd and Ellison,
2007). “Because organic growth had been critical to creating a coherent community, the onslaught
of new users who learned about the site from media coverage upset the cultural balance” Boyd and
Ellison writes. The slowness of the site prevented some of the potential new users in joining and the
existing users simply got annoyed by it. As a result, there was a lack of interest in returning to the
site on a regular basis. Instead, people went back to using e-mail, Instant Messaging, web surfing,
and the occasional blogging (Boyd, 2006).
5.1.1.3 Privacy and restrictions
Another problem about Friendster was that when joining the site, people were not able to see other
users. Designed as a dating site, Friendster wanted to make sure that users could only connect to
people they knew and trusted (Boyd, 2007). The site was fairly limited if your friends had not
arrived yet and people quickly got bored. MySpace was not as stringent about personal
relationships. They gave the users the opportunity to choose to what extent they wanted to privatize
their profiles and no one found it especially strange if a person had hundreds of friends (Boyd,
2006).
One major restriction for users of Friendster was the banning of all non-genuine profiles. Irina
Shklovski says: “Friendster tried very hard then to pick off people that were fake. To limit what
11 they could do with their profile and to dictate how the social network got to be used”.
Any profile with a nonrealistic photo, be that an actual user or not, was banned. But users were
interested in using these fake profiles, either for entertainment purposes or for connecting with
people with similar interests (Boyd, 2006).
Especially band pages, for promotional use, were deleted and that was a major reason why fans
chose to hang out on MySpace instead: “People were hanging out on Friendster before they hung
out on MySpace. But hanging out on Friendster is like hanging out in a super clean police state
where you can't chew gum let alone goof around and you're told exactly how to speak to others.
Hanging out on MySpace is more like hanging out in a graffiti park with fellow goofballs while
your favorite band is playing.” (Boyd, 2006).
5.1.1.4 Management
There was also a feeling that Jonathan Abrams, founder of Friendster, did not care about the users
and he made it very clear that he thought very little of them (Boyd, 2006). Boyd states: “Abrams
wrote nasty-grams and the language he used when writing to everyone was either obnoxious or so
corporate-y formulaic that users could not relate to him”. Friendster was trying to dictate and
decide exactly how the site should be used.
On MySpace, people were finding it easier to relate to Tom Anderson. Boyd talks about how
Anderson had a whole other way of communicating with the users: “Tom apologizes candidly,
writes funny messages to users, welcomes comments on his page, responds to users. Users either
love Tom or they think he's lame. But very few actually hate him.” (Boyd, 2006).
5.1.2 Music and fans
Realizing that people tried to promote events on Friendster, MySpace started to contact promoters
in the Los Angeles area. They knew that people in their 20’s wanted to go to cool events with cool
bands and that the younger audience was interested in following bands and celebrities as well as
other users with the same taste in music (Boyd, 2006). The bands were also going through some
rough times as Irina Shklovski describes it based on interviews with different musicians: “[…] It
was a really tough time for the musicians too. These were people that had just experienced
hurricane Katrina and that was their home. One of the reasons they ended up on MySpace was
because they needed to find each other and then they ended up finding other useful things on there.”
12 Bands began creating profiles on MySpace as a way of promoting themselves and this new music
community was attracting even more bands. Sharing and spreading the word about new music gave
fans the ability to create an international presence for musicians far beyond what they were able to
attain themselves (Baym and Burnett, 2011). Listening and downloading music on MySpace was
free and Steve Rosenbush states: “[...] these days, why should bands bother with a label? They can
post their tour dates on MySpace, put up music samples, and correspond via e-mail or message
boards directly with their fans.” (Business Week, 2005).
There was a symbiotic relationship between the fans and the bands (Boyd, 2007). In an interview on
The Charlie Rose Show in February 2009, DeWolfe said: “We have the largest music catalog in the
world” (Business Week, 2011). Fans were gathered in one place where they were able to connect
with their favorite bands (Boyd, 2006). They were able to establish a more personal relationship
with bands and artists had the option to get input and encouragement from listeners. Shklovski
quotes the musicians: “[…] I can talk to my fans and share music and people comment and you get
so much positive feedback”. Upcoming bands were able to gather a following by approaching
possible fans on MySpace. This resulted in a strong community sentiment on the site.
5.1.3 The cluster effect
In the early days, people went to Friendster in organically created clusters: Friends followed friends
into the world of Friendster. When the mainstream American users began using the site, it was
because of mass media. They joined the site but none of their friends were there and so they got
bored (Boyd, 2007).
MySpace on the other hand, started via a massive e-mail campaign, using the 50M emails Intermix
had at their disposal. But for the next two years, they managed to stay out of the mainstream media,
allowing for a more organic growth. When people joined the site, they were able to freely look at
other people’s profiles and see what they were up to (Boyd, 2006). This sense of freedom and new
possibilities for cluster influencers, according to Boyd “[…] was critical, and looking around would
often motivate them to drag in their friends” (Boyd, 2006).
5.1.4 Customization of profiles
It was all by accident when MySpace left open a technological loophole, letting users inject HTML
and CSS code into their profiles (Boyd, 2007). Personalizing the profiles was yet another new
13 feature people could entertain themselves with. When MySpace discovered the problem, they did
not do anything about it. They were letting users make the site their own but on one single
condition: The advertising on the site could not be removed or hidden. Surprisingly, users accepted
this out of respect (Boyd, 2006).
Unlike on Friendster, users could change the default of who were able to look at their profile – even
though it was a feature that came a little later (Shklovski, 2012). If one did not want their profile to
be visible to others, it was possible to create an age-default or choose a Friends-only visibility
(Boyd, 2006).
5.1.5 Comments and sharing
There was only a limited amount of things that people could share on Friendster. MySpace had
Comments or Guest books, and Friendster had the so called Testimonials. The testimonials on
Friendster were used to encourage people to write testimonials about other people who were visible
for strangers too (Boyd, 2007).
The difference between the testimonials and the comments was that testimonials became a way for
people to write something about someone. The comments on MySpace were more writing
something to someone (Boyd, 2007). Like that, the comments created a more dynamic and
interesting way of communicating.
5.1.6 Summery
There is no simple answer to why Friendster did not succeed but all their deficiencies were to
different extents beneficial for MySpace. People left Friendster because of a combination of social
collisions, technical problems, and the lack of trust between the users and the people behind the site.
In the end, MySpace was more interesting and entertaining and it quickly became the new “cool”
place to be. People liked the freedom that MySpace could offer them.
The band pages kick-started the influx of users to MySpace. The fans were thrilled about following
their idols and the music they were so passionate about. The fans followed the bands and eventually
people with no particularly interest in music started to join so that they could follow their music
loving friends.
14 MySpace grew in organically formed clusters which for a long time made it seem like a cool place
to be. In the beginning, the design of MySpace was new and exciting. Designing your own page
was a new and challenging feature and people saw it as a way of expressing themselves. More
dynamic conversations in the comments was also something the users liked.
5.2 Usability
By Thomas
In this section, we will talk about the design and usability of MySpace, as well as analyzing an
example profile page from 2006.
5.2.1 Mark-up code injections
Back in September 2006, when MySpace was one of the up-and-coming websites, PC World
published their list of the 25 worst websites in the world. Topping the list was the popular social
network. PC World's reason for this position was, as they put it, that “Graphically, many MySpace
pages look like a teenager's bedroom after a tornado – a swirl of clashing backgrounds, boxes
stacked inside other boxes, massive photos, and sonic disturbance” (PC World, 2006). What they
describe is the very open and accepting attitude towards HTML and CSS injections on the profile
pages of MySpace users. This meant that everyone could insert pieces of code into their profiles
that radically changed the visual design of them. From changing background, to font size and color.
MySpace only blocked certain, potentially malicious, code snippets such as JavaScript.
5.2.1.1 Bad coding
Because the possibility of code injections was coincidental (BusinessWeek 2011), the use of it was
unrestricted and caused the profile pages to load slowly. In 2008, Myspace.com loaded slower than
83 % of sites (Alexa.com, 2012). This also caused security holes that, in 2005, allowed the creation
and spreading of a worm. This is touched upon in the Security chapters.
Because the users of MySpace, often teenagers (Boyd, 2007), are not schooled in using Web
programming languages, many of the pages did not adhere to the basic guidelines laid down by
W3C concerning proper HTML coding (PC World, 2008). Especially concerning widespread
15 support and readability. This could, for example, give problems to people with different web
browsers, screen resolutions, or to people with disabilities that are in need of, e.g., a screen reader
(W3C, 1999). Again, this also caused problems with very slow and resource intensive pages.
Especially when users inserted codes to convert their profiles into flash powered pages.
5.2.2 Analysis of an example page
Using the wayback machine (a site that archives snapshots of web pages) we can take a look at how
one of the featured profiles on MySpace looked back in 2006 (Wayback Machine, 2006). A
screenshot of the site can be found as appendix 2. By first glance you can see that the owner
obviously chose to change the look of the site through use of code injection, as seen with the
custom background, font type and color and cursor type. This also confirms some of the more
negative stereotypes, including the, at times, almost unreadable text in a very pink color. That the
background is a small picture in a tile composition doesn't help the readability of the site. Lastly, the
whole profile page is lathered in animated graphics, Survey results (For example “What kind of soul
are you?”) with different text styles and a generally confused structure and information architecture
which makes it hard to find anything, let alone read it.
5.2.3 Blinkies
The blinking and animated part of the website is also worth elaborating on. Irina Shklovski
mentions in the interview, that “...for a while, the biggest rage on the Internet was the blinking
JPEGS and blinking GIFS Making things blink was the coolest thing ever”. (Shklovski, 2012).
Since it was a departure from the static, text-only, website, it was a popular eye catcher in the
earlier days of the Internet. And since MySpace didn't restrict against using animated pictures
anywhere on profile pages, people used it in great amounts. This often led to pages like the
example, which disturbs and creates noise in the structure and design the site. This not only slows
down the reading because of distracting animations, they can also cause seizures and attacks for
people with photosensitive disabilities. Even the US Government has regulations in place for their
websites, specifying the rate of blinks in animations. This is not a rulebook for private websites, but
also serves as a guide to create the best parameters for everyone.
5.2.4 Facebook’s clean design
16 All in all, MySpace's old profile design granted users the freedom to customize, often resulting in
cluttered and nearly unreadable web pages. This may have been one of the leading factors of the
exodus to Facebook, due to its creator Mark Zuckerberg having taken “pages out of Google's
playbook” (Shklovski, 2012). Facebook followed Google's example in creating a streamlined,
simpler design that was easy to access and didn't include all the distractions (i.e. blinkies) that
MySpace had.
Facebook had fewer options for customization than MySpace (Shklovski, 2012) but has still done
far better. Why is that? Maybe it's an example of the customer not always being right and in full
control. Maybe it goes to show that customization a razor thin line, where you might be giving
visitors powers over their part of a social network, but also running the risk of them impairing your
brand image.
5.3 Making the social content dynamic
By Nina
In this section we will try to analyze the importance of making the social content dynamic on social
network sites. To do this, we will draw a parallel between the revolutionizing RSS feed technology
and the Facebook News Feed and explain the importance of this. We will then analyze the how the
Facebook News Feed contributed to the decline of MySpace.
5.3.1 RSS
Personal websites has been around since the early days of the web (O'Reilly, 2005), but with web
2.0 came the rising popularity of blogging. What really made a difference and contributed to the rise
of blogging, is the feed technology RSS (O'Reilly, 2005). As O’Reilly writes “RSS is the most
significant advance in the fundamental architecture of the web since early hackers realized that
CGI could be used to create database- backed websites”.
RSS (often dubbed Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary) is a technology used to push
new information to a user, usually through a desktop- or web-based aggregator. With an RSS
aggregator, you can subscribe to a feed and the aggregator then automatically crawls the subscribed
17 feeds for any updates. This allows the user to get the desired content pushed to them, instead of
having to manually check websites for updates.
RSS is not only used for subscribing to blogs. As O’Reilly puts it: “RSS is now being used to push
not just notices of new blog entries, but also all kinds of data updates, including stock quotes,
weather data, and photo availability”.
RSS is one example of content to a greater extent being pushed to internet users, instead of people
manually searching for information.
In his 2006 article, Introducing Web 2.0: RSS trends for health librarians, Eugene Barsky predicted
“…my sense is that 2006 will be a year of increasingly pushed and user-created content on the
Internet. RSS will not necessarily become the core of Web 2.0 services, as it does not include any
transactional pulled component. In other words, you cannot use RSS to purchase a DVD or reserve
an airline flight. However […] RSS will be increasingly more prominent. RSS is becoming an
essential communication tool that allows us to provide the most up-to-date information to our
clients. It is definitely a trend to watch.”
While RSS technology is not directly related to this paper, the underlying push of content is. Like
Barsky predicted, pushed content on the internet has increased.
O’Reilly states that “Now, of course, "dynamic websites" (i.e., database-backed sites with
dynamically generated content) replaced static web pages well over ten years ago” which is very
true, however, today getting the dynamic content pushed to you, is just as important. The social
content must be dynamic.
5.3.2 Facebook’s News Feed
In September 2006, Facebook rolled out the News Feed. On the Facebook blog, Ruchi Sanghvi,
product manager for feed, presented the new feature as “News Feed highlights what's happening in
your social circles on Facebook. […] Now, whenever you log in, you'll get the latest headlines
generated by the activity of your friends and social groups.” (Sanghvi, 2006). This meant Facebook
users no longer had to manually navigate to their friends’ profiles to see what was new; latest
updates would simply get pushed to them, without having to leave their Facebook homepage.
18 5.3.2.1 Protests
When first launched, Facebook’s News Feed caused uproar. As Irina Shklovski says “…there was a
near riot. People were so upset”. In only three days, the group Students Against Facebook News
Feeds had gained 700,000 members (Boyd, 2006). People were “talking about huge invasions of
privacy”. (Shklovski, 2012) Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, first issued a plea for people to
“Calm down. Breathe” (Facebook, 2006) and two days later, he wrote an open letter (Facebook,
2006), stating that Facebook would add more privacy controls. He did, however, not get rid of the
News Feed. According to Shklovski that was “… the best decision ever made”.
5.3.2.2 Revolutionizing social networks
As Facebook provided better privacy controls and people got used to the changes, they started
appreciating the News Feed. As Zuckerberg puts his experience to Wall Street Journal: “I would
hear 'Man, early on I was freaked by Newsfeed and now I don't know how I can live without it.” To
him the protests were “… just something that goes along with being revolutionary” (Wall Street
Journal, 2007).
Facebook’s News Feed did indeed revolutionize social networks. According to Shklovski, the
News Feed was what killed MySpace. “…MySpace died at that point” she says and continues
“Because what happened then on Facebook is, whenever you log into Facebook there's always
something new. […] You were looking at really dynamic activity of all the people you knew. So you
were motivated to log in more often. Because you now could miss things […]MySpace remained
fairly static in that sense “. (Shklovski, 2012)
RSS feeds revolutionized the blogging world with pushed content, the same way the News Feed can
be said to have revolutionized the world of social networks. Twitter launched just around the time
Facebook rolled out the Newsfeed, and the premises were the same; dynamic content pushed to you
instantly.
5.3.3 Dynamic social content
When Shklovski describes MySpace as static, she’s not talking about the website in a technical
sense. Dynamic websites are “database-backed sites with dynamically generated content” as
described by O’Reilly. However, the social content was not dynamic. In order to view new content,
19 the user had to manually navigate to each of their friend’s profiles and check for updates. Taking
MySpace’s cluttered interface into account, one could easily imagine this to be a tedious task.
And without the stream of updated content, MySpace users could not get a general sense of the
networked public they participated in. The features on a social network site decide the affordances it
has, and the affordances shape how people engage in these environments. Without having that
stream of new information, it was hard getting a sense of the people around you, thus uncertain of
the public you were a part of.
It took MySpace more than a year to come out with their own version of the News Feed, Friends
Update.
5.4 The News Corp era
By Nina, Sine
In this section, we will analyze the impact and consequences it had when News Corp acquired
MySpace.
5.4.1 Profit Pressure
When News Corp bought MySpace in 2005, Murdoch appointed Ross Levinsohn as CEO of Fox
Interactive Media, the newly set up department in charge of MySpace (BusinessWeek, 2011).
With the new leadership arrived the pressure of increasing ad revenue. As mentioned, News Corp.
and Google signed a $900M advertising deal in the summer of 2006, for Google to be the exclusive
search-engine provider on MySpace (BusinessWeek, 2011). The deal looked great and hopes were
high. According to Reuters, Murdoch in early 2007 “brazenly predicted that MySpace would
generate up to a $1 billion in revenue in the next fiscal year” (Reuters, 2011).
The Google deal did, however, turn out to be a double-edged sword. Google required a certain
number of MySpace visitors on a regular basis, for them to pay MySpace the guaranteed $300M a
year for 3 years (Reuters, 2011). According to Chris DeWolfe, as reported by BusinessWeek, this
meant MySpace ”basically doubled the ads on our site” (BusinessWeek, 2011) Thus, MySpace that
20 did not have the cleanest layout to begin with, as explained in the “Usability” paragraph of this
paper, now became even more cluttered and confusing.
Having to keep up the page-views, while displaying multiple ads on the site, made it harder for
MySpace to experiment with the layout and new features. As Shawn Gold, former head of
marketing and content put it "There were things that we knew would be more efficient for the user
that we didn't act on immediately because it would reduce page views, which would have hurt the
bottom line." (BusinessWeek, 2011).
MySpace was now dependent on bigger companies, thus no longer free to make their own decisions
and develop the site in their own way. But with new users coming to the site every day, no one rang
the alarm bell yet (BusinessWeek, 2011).
5.4.2 Management Changes
From 2009 to 2011, a lot of changes happened at the MySpace offices. The CEO was replaced three
times in two years and the 75% staff cut were bound to affect the environment. But there were also
numerous changes at News Corp. Peter Chernin, who ran the FOX Interactive Media department
left, thereby withdrawing a lot of support for DeWolfe at the top level management (BusinessWeek,
2011). Jonathan Miller was instated as the digital media CEO of News Corp, thereby adding
another layer of management to the struggling MySpace (Reuters, 2011).
The declining numbers for MySpace, both in users and in revenue, will inevitably affect the top
management’s view of the organization, but instating so many changes in such a short timespan can
further exacerbate the critical situation. Founders often work well as CEO’s because they
understand the inherent nature of the company they are running and they have a broader vision with
the product.
As DeWolfe put it to BusinessWeek: “After we left, the guys that took over were never MySpace
users. They didn't have it in their DNA." (BusinessWeek, 2011). It can be argued that the founders
often are too close to their product and find it harder to implement changes, as was certainly the
case with Jonathan Abrams of Friendster. On the other hand, losing so much staff and replacing
many managing directors will result in a loss of know-how and experience which the fast moving
IT industry needs to function.
21 The choice of Van Natta to replace DeWolfe can be discussed as well. Van Natta was a former
Facebook employee, used to the fast paced decision making that characterizes tech startups in
Silicon Valley. The role as a head of such a large organization as MySpace had become, requires a
different skill set than heading a disruptive startup. Van Natta voluntarily left due to frustrations
with the company.
Compare this to the organizational structure of Facebook, where Zuckerberg has retained a majority
stakeholder position and refuted any offers to sell; there is a major difference. Zuckerberg is able to
retain his overall vision of the company and the direction, but the day-to-day management is left to
Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer. Sandberg has significantly more experience in
management than the 28 year old Zuckerberg and is able to provide differing opinions to
Zuckerberg.
The fact that DeWolfe and Anderson were willing to sell MySpace to the highest bidder can be seen
in different lights. On one hand $50M is a great amount for anyone and especially for a site that
later was sold for only $35M. On the other hand, DeWolfe and Anderson did not get the
opportunity to try and save MySpace.
Another difference in the management style of Zuckerberg and DeWolfe/Anderson is that
Zuckerberg has made some very tough and unpopular decisions (ie. NewsFeed) to keep in touch
with his vision whereas DeWolfe and Anderson have catered more to user demands, resulting in
two very different sites.
5.5 Safety
By Nina
Through the years, MySpace was criticized several times for lack of safety, resulting in spammers,
hackers and sexual predators on the site. In this section we will analyze the nature of these
problems, as they occurred on the site.
5.5.1 Hackers and spammers
From the very beginning, MySpace was plagued by spammers and hackers, using the site with
malicious intents. In 2005, the first worm (a form of virus) on the site was created, when Samy
Kamkar discovered how to sneak JavaScript code into his profile (PC World, 2007). This showed
22 that mark-up code injection, which was one of the main features of MySpace, also became one of
its biggest vulnerabilities.
In a 2007 article, TIME Magazine wrote “Scams and security breaches have been plaguing
MySpace for at least two years, and Internet sleuths say social-networking sites have become the
destination of choice for online swindlers” (TIME Magazine, 2007). This was around the time
several band pages, including the one of popular artist Alicia Keys, had been hacked and spread
malicious software to the victims’ computers. The virus also tried to hoax people into giving out
their credit card information, known as phishing (PC World, 2007).
Several MySpace groups also experienced faulty security, as they were spammed by so-called
“trolls” who filled their walls with offensive comments and photographs or posted dozens of empty
comments effectively ruining conversation (PC World, 2008).
5.5.2 Child predators
While the hacking and phishing could have serious consequences for the victims and the spammers
caused immense annoyances, a more publicized problem was going on at MySpace; sexual
predators, targeting the site’s younger users.
In February 2006, a Connecticut General Attorney launched an investigation into minors' exposure
to pornography on MySpace (BusinessWeek, 2011) and according to BusinessWeek, “the
subsequent media frenzy helped establish the site's reputation as a vortex of perversion”
(BusinessWeek, 2011). Still, pornography was not the biggest problem of sexual nature MySpace
experienced. In mid-2006, TIME Magazine reported there was “news almost every other day of
someone getting busted for having sex with a kid he met on MySpace” (TIME Magazine, 2006)
In January 2007, four families sued MySpace claiming their underage daughters were sexually
abused by adults they met on the site. (NBCnews).
5.5.2.1 Taking action
A few months before the suings, MySpace had struck a partnership with a background verification
company, to co-develop the first U.S. national database of convicted sex offenders (Reuters, 2007).
This would make it easier for MySpace to compare the registered offenders with people on their
site. The efforts were rewarded and in July 2007 MySpace reported that they had removed 29.000
23 sex offenders from their site (Reuters, 2007). Two years later, in March 2009, 90.000 sex offenders
had been identified and removed from the site (NBC News, 2009).
5.5.3 Why MySpace?
MySpace was, at the time of the first incidents of sexual abuse related to the site, very open.
According to Boyd, the openness was what made MySpace dangerous to young users. In an
interview in 2006 she wrote, “MySpace is very open – anyone can join, participate and
communicate with others. While MySpace allows 14 and 15 year old users to restrict who can see
their page and contact them, most users opt to make their profiles public. The primary concern is
that this openness puts youth at risk, making them particularly vulnerable to predators and
pedophiles.” (Boyd & Jenkins, 2006).
Internet analyst John Pescatore, states the trust between “friends” as a problem. “The bad guys
really are focusing on these social sites because of the trust people put in their friends' list," he said
(TIME Magazine, 2007).
While it’s unlikely that any social media site on the internet can go free of people intending to use
the site for malicious reasons, MySpace was highly criticized in the media for their lacking security
measures. In the end, this had consequences for MySpace’s development path.
"MySpace got to a point where they were not innovating technologically," Boyd says. "They were
having to do all technical innovations to address the various panics that are happening. Basically
their development cycle turned into one of crisis management, not one of innovation."
5.6 Demographics on MySpace
By Melissa
In this section we want to analyze what different demographics were present on MySpace and
Facebook respectively and how they changed.
It all started out well. In the years of 2006 and 2007, American teenagers were flocking to social
networks like MySpace and Facebook. Some of them had never joined a social network before and
some went from MySpace to Facebook. In the end of 2006, most teenagers were active on MySpace
but that quickly changed during the next few years as Facebook began taking over (Boyd, 2009).
Facebook was not as complex as MySpace.
24 On Facebook, people did not have to do anything themselves in terms of the design and layouts – it
was all made beforehand. People liked it because they could jump right into the social part of it all
and focus on that (Boyd, 2009). Also, Facebook seemed like a more mature place to be. Designing
your own background and having to choose Top Friends was eventually seen as both lame and
childish (Boyd, 2009).
5.6.1 Facebook for the upper-class
As the popularity of Facebook and MySpace spread, a division occurred (Boyd, 2009). Facebook
launched at Harvard being an online student community which then spread to other Ivy League
colleges around the US. Initially, people who wanted to create a profile on Facebook had to go to a
certain type of college (Boyd, 2009), meaning that they most likely were people coming from the
upper classes of society.
Therefore, Facebook was seen as a place for people from the more privileged and educated layer of
the society, while people on MySpace were more likely to come from the poorer, urban
communities and immigrant families (Boyd, 2009). Based on studies made by Anderson Analytics,
Facebook users tend to be better off financially, while MySpace users' income was the lowest out of
the four networks studied (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn) (Perez, 2009).
Zuckerberg introduced a range of more sophisticated tools for communicating with users' real-life
friends. The design was clean and there were no advertisement (Business Week, 2011) which
obviously was a big contrast to the design on MySpace. As BusinessWeek wrote in 2011
“MySpace's inability to build an effective spam filter exacerbated the public impression that it was
seedy. And that, says Boyd, contributed to an exodus of white, middle-class kids to the supposedly
safer haven of Facebook—a movement she compares to the "white flight" from American cities in
the second half of the 20th century. MySpace was becoming Detroit.” (Business Week, 2011).
Sarah Perez also describes the users on MySpace as being the place for “[…] the less affluent
members of the online population…” (Perez, 2009). The divisions were of course not clean and a lot
of people had a profile on both networks (Boyd, 2009).
5.6.2 Maturity
Facebook attracted an older audience than MySpace. In 2008, MySpace was dominated by a
younger crowd with nearly 85% of the users being 30 or younger (Caverlee and Webb, 2008).
25 Based on a research made by Pew Research Center in 2010, 29% of the users on MySpace were
between the age of 18 and 22 while on Facebook it was only 16%. Users between 23 and 35 formed
42% of the users on MySpace and 33% on Facebook. Users between 36 and 49 formed only 17%
on MySpace and 25% on Facebook (Hampton, Goulet, et al., 2011). As the numbers show, the
average age on MySpace was lower than on Facebook. It also shows that the age distribution on
Facebook is wider which tells that Facebook was able to appeal to a broader segment of the
population.
The exclusivity and feeling of being part of an upper class community alongside with its nice and
clean design made Facebook more attractive to the old but also new users of social networks. There
was no point in joining or staying at MySpace which had acquired a sense of being a ghetto.
6. Discussion
By Sine, Nina
We have now identified and analyzed the most commonly mentioned reasons for the fall of
MySpace. In this section we will discuss which of the previously analyzed reasons can be said to
have had the greatest impact on MySpace’s popularity.
6.1 Friendster
Ironically, Facebook gained popularity over MySpace for the exact opposite reasons MySpace
gained popularity over Friendster. Friendster tried to be, and rigorously enforced, a streamlined and
restricted user experience. Whereas MySpace was complete freedom and user-control. In the end
though, users chose the more clean and simple design of Facebook, rather than the customizable
and cluttered MySpace. As we concluded in a previous section, there was an excluding subculture
on MySpace, leading to enjoyment for only those who understood and appreciated the freedom to
customize the site.
To be able to grow a user base the size we see in Facebook now, you need a more generic interface
and profile system, which was something Friendster initially had at the time they tried to be a dating
site and not a social network, which inhibited them greatly.
26 6.2 News Corp
The fact that MySpace was bought by News Corp, did have several consequences, positive and
negative. MySpace got access to an unseen amount of capital, which helped them accommodate to
the large influx of new users. On the other hand, the pressure for ad revenue lowered the usability
and hindered the freedom to develop.
After News Corp bought MySpace in 2005, the site continued to grow exponentially for three years,
and declined for three years, until they were sold in 2011. This leads us to believe that News Corp
did not contribute to the fall of MySpace. The News Crop management were, however, not able to
directly turn the tables around either. And the hirings and firings of staff did not help MySpace in
the critical period.
6.3 Safety
One point that has been brought repeatedly in our research is the media attention towards pedophile
predators and safety concerns on MySpace. This can partly be attributed to the lack of knowledge
about social networking sites at that time, as well as the fact that MySpace did have a
predominantly young userbase. We cannot deny that MySpace was lacking in security and there
were some risks combined with having a profile there. But we have not been able to find any
correlations in the data to support the hypothesis that this is the main reason for users denouncing
the site. Perhaps the negative media attention could have had an effect on users deciding to create a
MySpace or Facebook profile, but security measures were already put in place by the time the
major exodus happened in late 2008. The image of MySpace as a spam-riddled, virus infected,
predator haven could have had an effect on inexperienced tech users such as parents and older
demographics, but they were not a substantial customer base, nor the target audience. Or in the
words of Boyd: “The media coverage of predators on MySpace implies that 1) all youth are at risk
of being stalked and molested because of MySpace; 2) prohibiting youth from participating on
MySpace will stop predators from attacking kids. Both are misleading; neither is true.
Unfortunately, predators lurk wherever youth hang out. Since youth are on MySpace, there are
bound to be predators on MySpace. Yet, predators do not use online information to abduct
children; children face a much higher risk of abduction or molestation from people they already
know – members of their own family or friends of the family. Statistically speaking, kids are more at
risk at a church picnic or a boy scout outing than they are when they go on MySpace.”
27 6.4 Dynamics
When Facebook introduced their News Feed in 2006, it was a revolution of social networks. Getting
social content pushed to you, made the site experience truly dynamic. During the interview with
Irina Shklovski, this seemed like one of the most important factors of MySpace’s fall. As earlier
cited “... MySpace died at that point”. In hindsight, this seems like an obvious conclusion to make,
and the one-year gap between Facebook’s News Feed and MySpace’s Friends Update, is a long
time in such a competitive market. However, these features were brought in in 2006 and 2007, and
at that time, MySpace dominated the social network marked. Even Twitter, arguably the most
dynamic social networking site, didn’t catch on before 2009. This leads us to believe that it was not
a crucial element to the downfall in grand scheme of things.
6.5 Usability & Demography
For a while, the users were very forgiving of the usability disaster that was MySpace. As earlier
quoted “Hanging out on MySpace is more like hanging out in a graffiti park with fellow goofballs
while your favorite band is playing” This was appealing to the tech-savvy teen. They didn’t mind
the badly organized navigation and ads, and they were responsible for the at times unreadable
profile pages and numerous distractions in the form of blinking GIFs, survey and quiz results,
clashing colors, interfering music, spam, etc.
By the time MySpace reached more than 100M users, it was no longer only “goofballs” present on
the site, and the older users were looking for a more practical social network.
Facebook opened to the public at the right time, when people were starting to understand how a
social network could be used. With their classy design and simple features, Facebook was more like
hanging out at Harvard with Ivy League kids than at the graffiti park. As analyzed above, Facebook
users were more likely to be white middle class college-aged Americans, and MySpace users were
more likely to be lower class minority high scholars. Danah Boyd accurately compared the situation
to the white-flight from American cities.
Around the tipping point, MySpace had gained the reputation of a teenage ghetto, riddled with ads,
spam and pedophiles and so we would argue that demographics along with usability and brand
image, were the deciding factors in the fall of MySpace.
28 7. Conclusion
By Sine
When first approaching this subject, we did so with memories of using MySpace as pre-teens and
teens. Therefore our first notion was to assume that people left MySpace for Facebook because
MySpace was a blinking, glittering, top friends, spam nightmare. What we only realized later was
that Facebook now is being used by teens in exactly the same way we used MySpace.
As design students we also attributed a lot of cause to the usability of MySpace and the lack of
dynamic and pushed content in the early versions of MySpace. In analyzing and discussing some of
the most commonly referred to mistakes of MySpace, we have gained a new perspective. First of
all, we noticed how intense the competition between MySpace and Facebook has been. They launch
within years of each other, roll out new features within months of each other and the tipping point
of who is going to be the biggest social network is when they both have 115M users.
What we have found in our analysis and discussion, is the importance of the tastes of middle class
caucasian Americans. In late 2008, where MySpace and Facebook were neck and neck in metrics,
Facebook simply attracted the majority of middle class Americans. Twenty-something, college
graduated, middle class people prefer a more standardized, generic, style, that does not take up too
much of their time.
So whether it was the Ivy League background, the simpler and more streamlined design, the
“predator” publicity directed at MySpace, the appropriate security settings or hundreds of other
details, Facebook won the battle and continued on to dominate the online landscape.
We have assessed what reasons could have been most instrumental in the downfall, but we remain
convinced that it was a combination of all the different factors that contributed. Some mistakes were
understandable. It is difficult to make major changes when you are gaining users by the millions.
Some were avoidable. Letting users dictate what features should be kept and what should be cut is a
sure way to become a fad. Knowing your users better than they know themselves is difficult, but
necessary for longevity.
In the end, some reasons were beyond their control. There is an element of timing and first mover
issues. Businesses always build on each other’s experiences and the newest version will always
29 have an advantage over the older. But what we can determine with the aid of research, analysis and
the kind help of hindsight, is that Facebook is built to last, where MySpace was a lucky accident.
8. Perspective
By Melissa
According to the new.myspace.com it is re-launching in the very near future. Now owned by
Specific Media and Justin Timberlake with a staff of 700 employees they are trying to recreate the
MySpace brand. In many ways, MySpace is to be found in a very interesting situation. They have a
history and most people already have an opinion about them. Changing their image is going to be a
challenge.
At this point, we are not able to say exactly what the plans are with the new MySpace, but based on
the introduction video (MySpace, 2012) it seems like they want to recreate themselves as being an
entertainment hub with a content sharing aspect. It has been leaked (Business Insider, 2012) that
they are aiming to be a direct competitor to some of the big online music streaming sites that have
had a lot of success recently, Spotify and Pandora. It is interesting that they are not launching
themselves as a direct competitor to Facebook and Twitter, and this could be seen as a testament to
the dominance of Facebook.
The future of Facebook is also worth considering. Will they be able to continue to dominate or will
there eventually be a competitor to match their greatness? Perhaps a Chinese or Indian network
could have the sheer user numbers to topple Facebook in the future. Facebook became a publicly
traded company on the stock exchange in May 2012 (CNBC, 2012) and with this comes
responsibility to shareholders. Right now there is an uneasy balance between the demands of
businesses wishing to advertise and demands of users wishing to use the services for free. The
future of Facebook greatly depends on their ability to satisfy users and businesses, as well as create
enough revenue to please shareholders. Facebook needs to adequately prove to advertisers that they
can make money off Facebook, something that Shklovski states in our interview: “Social stuff is
really fascinating right now. Facebook isn't making money, but the length to which they've gone to
prove that they are worth the money, has been interesting. And that indicates how tedious their
moneymaking is. How difficult it is for them to actually convince people to spend money on them in
30 terms of advertising. Social stuff is important. It's really, really important to people. Facebook is
actually important to people. But… is it important enough that people would pay for it? It's a very
difficult question.”
31 9. Bibliography
Papers/research articles
Boyd, D. Ellison, N. B. (2007) “Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.” Journal of
Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11. Available at
http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html [Accessed November 7 2012]
O’Reilly, T. (2005). “What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of
Software”, O'Reilly Media. Available at http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html
[Accessed 7 November 2012]
Books
Boyd, D. (2010). "Social Network Sites as Networked Publics: Affordances, Dynamics, and Implications."
In Networked Self: Identity, Community, and Culture on Social Network Sites (ed. Zizi Papacharissi), pp. 3958. Routledge.
Boyd, D. (2007) “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage
Social Life.” In Youth, Identity, and Digital Media (ed. David Buckingham). pp. 119-142. MIT Press.
Thornton, S. (1995) “Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital.“ Polity Press
News articles online
Adegoke, Y. (2011) “Special Report: How News Corp got lost in Myspace” Reuters. Available on
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/07/us-myspace-idUSTRE7364G420110407 [Accessed on 21
November 2012]
Adest, A. (2006) “Rupert Murdoch Comments on FOX Interactive’s Growth” Seeking Alpha. Available at
http://internet.seekingalpha.com/article/15237-rupert-murdoch-comments-on-fox-interactive-s-growth
[Accessed on 2 December 2012]
Arrington, M. (2008) “ Facebook no longer the second largest social network” TechCrunch. Available at
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37 10. Appendix 1
Interview with Irina Shklovski. Conducted by Sine Astrid Morris on November 15th 2012 at the IT
University of Copenhagen.
The interviewers questions and comments are marked in italics.
We read the paper you and Dana wrote and its really good. Very relevant for us. It’s nice to see thinks, um,
how they were, how they seemed at the time, not with hindsight. Oh well.
It’s actually the only paper where we spent time talking about the Design of the site and problems with the
design of the site. And what was happening with the site at the time.
Actually, that ties in really nicely with my first question. Because, um, you mention in the paper that
MySpace was a usability disaster, you even quoted that people were saying, “I’m retarded, I don’t even
know how to put my own music up.” But you also mentioned that people were very forgiving of this at the
time, because MySpace at the time was very new and different. Now do you think, in the end, that the
usability and design flaws were, ended up being the downfall or was it other reasons?
Um, I mean in some ways it was usability and design and the madness of MySpace, in some ways I think it
says a lot about the mismanagement of it in terms of how they did the development and I stopped following
MySpace a few years after we wrote that paper, primarily because I wasn’t doing that research anymore and
cause who the hell was on MySpace back then? But in some ways, the sentiments that my musicians at the
time expressed, and you’ve got to understand that at it was a really though time for them too, the musicians
we were interviewing, cause they were, this was just, these were people that had just experienced hurricane
Katrina and that was their home and that was one of the reasons they ended up on MySpace was because
then needed to find each other and then they ended up finding other useful things on there. Now, it’s actually
interesting, because I’ve been hearing exactly the same thing from people about Facebook from musicians.
“Um, its great, I can talk to my fans and share music and people comment and you get so much positive
feedback”, so its really the interaction with the fans, the duet not somehow needed from different people. So
in that function, I think eventually once, at the time Facebook was not allowing band pages, things like band
pages. So MySpace was the only place, Friendster wasn’t allowing them, Orca was a mess, um, Facebook
wasn’t allowing band pages and it was closed and weird and they were going through a lot of changes at the
time too. But then, but people were moving to Facebook, so the fan base was moving to Facebook and once
38 Facebook started allowing band pages. Bands follow fans just the same way fans follow bands. So, in many
ways, MySpace wasn’t able to retain the same people that sustained them for a long time and that was the
musicians because they were, in a direction and design mess, they never ever really understood why that was
a problem, I think, and they ended up catering to a different demographic, so um, at the same time, they
started seeing papers coming out, and its still actually pretty evident, that MySpace and Facebook ended up
catering to a different socio-economic class and to different demographics that were on Facebook and
MySpace.
Right, that ties into something we’ve talked a lot about in the group, about, um, the exclusivity of Facebook
in the beginning and how much of a contrast there is (between MySpace and Facebook) and that also ties
into the usability and design, that Facebook had fairly narrow ways, it was more of a filling out a
questionnaire than making a whole design about yourself and music. But, do you think that MySpace would
have been able to encompass all the different classes if they had focused more on or developed their design
more?
In some ways, um, what was really important and useful on MySpace was the ability to like absolute, I mean,
they allowed people to make their profiles private very late in the game. SO for a while, there was no private
profiles on MySpace and then there was a bunch of pedophile scandals and they were forced to ensure that if
you were under 16, your profile automatically had to be private and then they made that an option for
everybody else, which, think about Facebook being really, really exclusive, in part the reason why people
really liked Facebook was because they felt safe and that the messages you were going to get was not going
to be from like random people, you know, boys collecting girls, girls collecting boys, sleazy invitations to
bizarre things and random marketing attempts and things like that. With Facebook, when you got a message,
it was from somebody you knew or somebody you might want to talk to, right?
So, that was exactly the same reason why, um, people went to Facebook, why people felt comfortable using
their real name on Facebook and not on MySpace.
That’s right, we hadn’t thought about that yet. You thought a lot about how your username, how protective it
had to be.
The real name stuff, happened on Facebook, not because Facebook required it initially, but because people
sensed, if it was only Harvard that was on this social network site, then you wanted your real name, because
you wanted to be found by other people at Harvard, because it was an internal thing, so then if it was just
.edu and you wanted to connect with people from your university or you, it was easiest to use your real name
and if you weren’t using your real name, then people would ask why, cause most of the time they would
39 know you, right. The people that you were connected to on Facebook were also people that you saw at
school all the time. So by the time Facebook opened its doors to everybody, the real name bit was already a
norm. That’s how people used Facebook. So they knew people that came onto Facebook were immediately
socializing to the same way of doing it and when you have real names, you have other, there are all kinds of
things that end up happening. And one of them is, if it’s your real name, you are not going to go around
sending random messages to people. You are especially not going to do it if um, the people you can send
random messages to can find you.
That’s true.
Right, so, you have, um, and the design of the whole thing came from MySpace too. The design was, they
were designing for people to be on Facebook and hang out in there. Why else would you have, um, would
you start out with these really isolated islands, you want a reason, so the design was focused on.
You actually had to know, to know these people, their personality.
You knew these people! So, the way they made those decisions, the way Facebook decided that, to introduce,
um, their, so initially it was just profiles.
Why else would you start out with these isolated islands? No other reason. The design was focused on that
you knew these people. They made those decisions
When Facebook decided to introduce there when Facebook introduced the news feed there was a near riot.
People were so upset, they so didn’t want it. Talked about breach of privacy. Facebook completely ignored
that. And it was the best decision they ever made.
Because, really, MySpace died at that point. When, because what happened then on Facebook was, whenever
you logged in on Facebook, there was always something new on Facebook. It wasn’t your profile you were
looking at; it wasn’t static. Using a really dynamic – watching all the people you knew.
So, you were logging in often. ‘Cause you could not miss things. That’s a very new thing. MySpace was
fairly static in that sense. But think of it this way: Tom created MySpace with a completely different goal in
mind. He was a competitor to Friendster at the time and Friendster was aggressively eradicating band pages
and fakesters -
Uh, Friendster was trying to be more of a dating-?
Yeah, Jonathan Abrams really wanted to find a date, which is why he created Friendster. It was a very big
joke for a while that Jonathan Abrams wanted to find a date. Friendster became really big and then really
40 small again and JA is still single. Whether or not that’s true is a different story, but, yeah, at the same time
the people who was studying this were laughing that social applications were created by nerdy boys who
didn’t know how to get women. So they created them because that was their idea of how they might meet a
cute girl that would actually go out with them.
So, but the reality of this is incredibly true, but do you know why Facebook was blue?
Sorry?
Do you know why Facebook was blue?
Blue? No I’ve -
Because Mark Zuckerberg is red/green colorblind. So he can’t see a lot of the colors, blue is the one he can
see best. That’s why it’s blue.
A lot of the decisions that Mike Zuckerberg made in the original Facebook design came from the fact that he
was a nerdy boy at Harvard, so thus, MySpace was too campy. And He was colorblind; so many colors
wouldn’t work for him anyway.
And then he took a few pages from Google’s playbook. Think about it: Before Google appeared on the
scene, you had SE like Yahoo, AltaVista, all these kinds of things. They were important. In that age, you
entered a page and it took you a lot time to find the search bar because there were all these others things that
were blinking, talking, doing stuff and whatever. Lots and lots of ads.
And then Google came around, and all they had was: Google and a search bar. The whole idea of what a
search engine was going to be and why you would want to have a search engine, changed when Google came
out. They changed what a search engine is.
The original of idea of what a search engine was: it was a portal. So Google distinguished itself from all the
other players because it was so simple. So if you were really sick of things blinking at you, would go to a
place where nothing blinks and that was Google. That was why lots and lots of people started switching to
Google. 1. It was good, it was way better but 2. By god, your head didn’t hurt.
So Facebook, in some ways, took a page out of their playbook. Very minimal design, very straightforward.
Right, and also combat – to – otherwise you wouldn’t have to log in or have a profile sort of. I’m talking
about user freedom. How MySpace was so – Imagine us, why we need an expert who sees the bigger picture,
41 ‘cause we saw it as a twelve-thirteen-year-olds and the way they use MySpace would be really incredible to
see?
Well, I mean, the theory is that at the time, MySpace was a reaction to Friendster. Friendster tried very hard
then to pick off people that were fake. To limit what they could do with their profile and 3: To dictate how
the social network got to be used.
So, MySpace was a reaction to that. MySpace said: “You want to create a random profile for Barney? Go for
it! You want to make it Orange? Go for it! Express yourself! This is you!”
You got to understand that, at the time, Social networks were kind of all the rage but no one knew what the
hell to do with them. Friendster failed because they didn’t know how to monetize. They didn’t know how to
make money. The only reason MySpace stayed on as long as it did was because, well, they got bought for a
ridiculous amount of money.
Right, so. for a while, MySpace runs its course, and, obviously, it goes to an extreme. You’d been around
the Internet before all this stuff? You know, for a while, the biggest rage on the Internet was the blinking
JPEGS And blinking GIFS. Making things blink was the coolest thing ever. At the time, I was teaching
HTML courses and the first thing I would teach people is that never use the blink tag. Do not make things
blink!
So, when these just stood out, people began going crazy. Because in part, people didn’t know what Social
network sites were for, why would you have one? So you had a bunch of bands on there that discovered that
it was actually really useful to discover….
And then people are going to get tired of it.
But because your profiles are static – or as static as you make them (if they don’t blink a lot) – the action is
fairly limited for what you actually can do”
Right. You have your five top friends and then you look at those.
Right! And then they introduce this whole like top friends-thing, which created all kinds of issues. Danah
actually has a paper on that. Danah actually wrote a lot on MySpace. And you know, there is a couple of
academics studying MySpace – and that’s about it.”
42 Do you think that … and suddenly getting that influx of money and then suddenly have to be more aware of
how they were going to make that back. Do you think that that changed MySpace or were they already on a
natural …?
I don’t actually remember. At the point where News Corp brought them they were out in the … – they were
just as hot as they were going to go if you look at that point. Which is why News Corp spent so much money
on them. But they never figured out how to make money. But you also got to understand, Google AdSense
was just really beginning to work. Facebook is making money like Google AdSense. That is how they do
their advertising. It’s the same approach. At the time, the majority of advertising was banners. So that’s what
MySpace did – lots of banners of different kinds. And they thought they could do lot a more targeting with
their advertising because they knew stuff about their users – but their users couldn’t care less. It’s actually
really hard to advertise on a social network site – that’s why Facebook is having trouble. Facebook is having
trouble proving to their advertisers that their advertising works better than for example advertising
elsewhere. That’s why they have been going through all kinds of different changes. Social networks – people
don’t go there to buy things! The reason why Google AdSense works so well is because you search for
something. Now Google knows what you search for using those key words along with your search. It gives
you some ads on the site. If you’re searching for something, you’re much more likely to look at the ads as
well. You’re not going to the social networks to search! You go there to chat, to hang out – who cares about
the advertising on the site?
So you have this problem where the people getting tired of the “blinkies” because those things are …. And
then you also have a natural limit to how many people you’re going to get that are willing to spend the time
customizing their page. Most of us are too damn lazy to do that. There was a huge problem for MySpace
because not having a customized page was a … you couldn’t have a non-customized page – that was boring.
You could get lots of crap from your friends, people would laugh at you and people would post nasty
messages on your wall or whatever. So they reached a limit of who was willing to go and do that. And again,
still, nobody knew what it was for.
Now, you could connect with bands. Eventually they actually focused on that and they started advertising for
that. That was why you used MySpace, so you could follow bands. And if you read Danah’s work, that’s
actually why kids stayed at MySpace – it was because the bands were there. Once the bands moved to
Facebook that was it. Honestly I don’t think MySpace could have done anything at that point. Because the
fans moved to Facebook and eventually the bands followed. It is not like: Where the bands go the fans go.
But it is of sort of connected. There is a certain point where the bands realize that most of their fans are on
Facebook. It might be more useful to do that so they open their own page on Facebook. They still need to
43 pay attention to their MySpace but then their page on Facebook starts working really well. And then they
realize that the … of MySpace is moving to Facebook. And there the rest of their fans go. I think there is still
some perception that if you go to Facebook you’re joining everybody where MySpace is now the cool
alternative-thing.”
That could be the future for MySpace
Well basically yeah and I think that that is what they’re going to cultivate: That they are cool-nonFacebook.”
It’s an interesting thing about whether Facebook was sort of the cause of the demise or just a correlation
where they were failing already and then Facebook …
Well it’s much more complicated than that. But think about it this way: MySpace initially was not Friendster,
and then Facebook was not MySpace, and now MySpace is trying to be not-Facebook. And for all intents
and purposes it became very clear that when you don’t know what it is that social networks are supposed to
do, you don’t get so much people that stick around. So you need the dynamic aspect that Facebook have.
Facebook has done a lot to increase the number of … they have and the amount of time that people spend on
the site.”
Yeah it’s quite addictive in a kind of way
That’s because of the dynamic content. The only thing that keeps Facebook interesting for you is the
dynamic content. If every time you logged in there and everything was the same, you would stop logging in
quite as often. Eventually you would only check when you have an e-mail notifying you about something
interesting. The same with Twitter – really dynamic. And I think it just happened that way. In many ways it
was the timing, it was the decision to make the social content dynamic – that was a brilliant move on the part
of Mark Zuckerberg, he was the first to do that, he was the first to realize that that was necessary, and to
some extend he did that right around the time when Twitter started out.
44 When you write about MySpace, there are so many things where you think Twitter was the first time you
could interact with your base, you know, and they would appreciate and apply to you. There’s a lot ….
It’s dynamic, it’s constant. It’s really fast. The first step was to realize that the social bits are important. To
realize that the social network as a metaphor is a viral way to engage people and then to figure out what it
was that would keep people coming back. Because from the very beginning with the web, the biggest
problem any site designer had was: How do you keep people coming back?”
From the very beginning with the web, the biggest problem any site designer had was ‘how do you keep
people coming back’. The biggest problem is figuring out how to content often enough, to keep people
coming back.
That’s why eventually we got to blogs. Because people eventually figured out that if you build a system, that
sort of makes making content easy. And move the address book and the comment book, that you could create
on all websites.. you know, let people make comments on each page. You might actually be able to maintain
more interested in…
So it was a very slow move to dynamic content. The whole idea of web 2.0 is that content is dynamic. And
MySpace happened at the moment when that was just getting figured out. And they just worked - they didn't
notice. They weren't savvy enough to figure out the dynamic content is what is necessary. The blinkies, not
the self-expression.
Not even the bands?
Not even the bands! Yeah the bands, but you know, it needs to be.. You need to let them be more dynamic.
…they had blogs. The bands would write blogs and the fans would go in. But eventually you could RSS
blogs, so you could pull the blogs from MySpace, without actually going into MySpace. They would just
arrive in your RSS reader. That's a problem for MySpace, because you're getting the dynamic content, but
you're not visiting the site, so they're not getting eyeballs on the ads. . But they can't turn off RSS because
when they do, people are going to figure out, so they're going to move to different blogging platforms, where
RSS is available. Because going over to a site to check if somebody updated his or her blog, is a real pain in
the ass. People want it easy. They're lazy. So you make getting 'really entertaining, sort of realistic, kind of
45 little peripheral, but sort of relevant to you' information constantly available, very easily. And that's when
you get lots of eyeballs.
And now they just got to figure out the shopping aspect of it.
Right. I mean, commercialization is very difficult. That's been a problem with the web from the very
beginning. The reason why we had a tech-bubble was because there were lots and lots and lots of people who
were like "the internet, the web, that's the best thing ever!! Totally. Everything will make money!" And from
the ruins of that who emerged? EBay. Craigslist. Amazon. And Google. Yahoo can't be said to have emerged
from that particular bubble. So those are the four giants that emerged from that particular breakdown. They
only four companies that figured out how to survive.
Craigslist: because they never really wanted to make money. It was kind of almost a volunteer operation and
it's still run that way and Craigslist weren't very particular about it. They refused to sell at all for a really long
time.
Amazon. Because they made shopping easy and people are lazy.
EBay: Because a bargain is always a bargain. And people have all kinds of shit they would like to sell, but
they don't want to leave their house.
And then Google. Because they made search easy.
Now we have the social media bubble. Everyone's doing some kind of social media and there's tons of inter
capital and lots and lots and lots of new start-ups and social media of different kinds. And it's the same
problem. The same way that the reason why we had the tech-bubble popping was because nobody could
actually make money on the Internet - they couldn't figure it out. It's the same thing now. Try to figure out
how to make money off this social stuff - they can't, it's very hard.
Maybe sites like Pinterest or like.. very community but still buy-oriented.
Right, but..
46 You don't think that's that?
No. I mean, Pinterest is actually very interesting. And I've been kind of avoiding looking at it and logging
onto it, because I have too many things to think about anyway.
If you look at social stuff, LinkedIn is one of the few that makes consistent money. Because have very
narrow, very specific purpose, and they fulfill that purpose well. It's a subscription service. Everybody can
have a profile on LinkedIn, but you gain so much more out of it, if you pay. And if you're looking for a job,
you'll pay. Same way MonsterJobs and all those job-search stuff has survived. (And sort of morphed into
new things, but..) People are desperate and when employers want access to a big pool of applicants… there
you go. And it's very specific. It's a very narrow set of who wants to do something and who would pay.
So I don’t know… Social stuff is really fascinating right now. Facebook isn't aching money, but the length to
which they've gone to prove that they are worth the money, has been interesting. And that indicates how
tedious their moneymaking is. How difficult it is for them to actually convince people to spend money on
them in terms of advertising.
Social stuff is important. It's really really important to people. Facebook is actually important to people.
But… is it important enough that people would pay for it? It's a very difficult question.
That is interesting, yeah.
Who knows what the next thing is going to be? For now we know that dynamic content is key. For now we
know that people want control over their audience and over who they hear, what they hear. And who they
think hears them. It's actually kind of important people like that. But that's all we know so far. So yeah...
there's your answer.
Thank you!! That was really really really interesting.
47 11. Appendix 2
48