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MySpace: what went wrong – by its former VP of online marketing (theguardian.com)
135 points by century19 782 days ago | hide | past | web | 76 comments | favorite

I was an early user of both MySpace and Facebook. MySpace came first. It seemed like an easy way to create a rather customizable web presence. I created a page myself. But the experience sucked. Most customizers turned their MySpace page into a really bad website, with (loud) music that would automatically start up, and you were always a click away from a near-pornographic image (uh, Dad, Mom, no it's just MySpace, I'm not surfing for porn!)

The article seems off base. I don't get how Facebook avoids being all over the place. But, yeah, they did avoid the obnoxious ads (at first), and I can visit someone's page without blasting music or getting an eyeful of html poop.

Could they have avoided losing out to Facebook? I think if they created MySpace 2.0 without all the crap (essentially what Facebook did) and made it easy to migrate your accounts and activity, they could have prevented Facebook from taking over social. But they didn't, and it was crap, and I basically put up a MySpace message saying I was moving to Facebook for all the reasons, and that's where people could find me. And I think a lot of other people followed suit.

I totally agree with this, and when Facebook launched it was clear to me that the restrictions it placed on customization of profile pages, and providing smart defaults for layout, don't, and color would make social more functional and valuable for most users.

But I still appreciate Ze Frank's defense of ugly wrt MySpace democratizing design tools, and his observations that the fact that so many people were cutting, modifying, and pasting css was at the time weird and kind of wonderful.


> As people start learning and experimenting with these languages authorship, they don't necessarily follow the rules of good taste. This scares the shit out of designers. > > In Myspace, millions of people have opted out of pre-made templates that "work" in exchange for ugly. Ugly when compared to pre-existing notions of taste is a bummer. But ugly as a representation of mass experimentation and learning is pretty damn cool.

Its not just ugly as some kind of aesthetic issue, it also hurt functionality. Buttons could be moved or made invisible. Animated backgrounds would make things hard to find, etc.

But that's not MySpace's biggest sin. Its biggest problem was all the freedom it gave just helped turn into a defacto dating site. With no real rules and no focus on anything, girls put up lots of cleavage photos for attention and guys hit on them. Guys put up shirtless leering photos and girls responded. Comments were more often bawdy talk than not. Teens and 20 somethings ruled. It never migrated past a high school mentality. A bit like how Second Life has now pretty much become a fetish site for furries.

Then Facebook showed up with its academic focus. The existing userbase were all college students whose peers, professors, potential employers, family, etc had access to their profiles, so there was a disincentive to treat it like "da club." People put their personal and semi-professional faces up and when the floodgates were open to Joe User, he saw the culture there, the lack of customizations, etc and conformed to what Facebook was. It had the mainstream professional and familial mores its roots were built upon. The Wild West of the Myspace world was just too self-limiting in this case. It couldn't go mainstream with its culture. It was too "young person trying to get laid" focused.

A bit like how Second Life has now pretty much become a fetish site for furries.

I think many of us realized that SL had little potential beyond that even in its infancy. Minecraft soaked up the remaining interest in the potential of the programmable, realtime virtual worlds quite nicely.

Yeah, first we all had our own Geocities site and then there was stuff like LiveJournal. Then Myspace came along and continued the slow decline of options for the user who was interested enough to customize their page. Still, I remember just as many people not caring how it worked and pasting all sorts of "pimp your myspace" stuff into their page and in the process, opening up all sorts of opportunities for phishers and spammers.

Facebook was a little more "Apple-like" in that they preferred not to even offer you the tools with which you might crapify your profile. The most obvious result has been that your profile and feed are only crapped up when it's by Facebook themselves but at the same time, I do think it's a shame that so many younger (or just newer) folks won't necessarily have the same easy opportunity to start messing around with HTML and CSS and other stuff the way people in the 90's and earlier 00's had loads of tools to tinker around with their personal "homepage" of choice.

Not saying there aren't plenty of chances to learn that stuff still but I know the barrier is a lot lower when that site everyone uses also offers some chance to learn and customize.

"I can visit someone's page without blasting music or getting an eyeful of html poop."

i hated auto-playing music until it didn't exist anymore. now i miss the individuality. not specifically the music but also the other ways you could customize the page. in case anyone isn't familiar, you could basically just embed arbitrary html/css/js.

Tumblr now fills this void, and in a much more free and customizable way than MySpace did.

I wonder how they prevent Remote Code Execution. Because >just embed arbitrary html/css/js is THE definition of RCE.

> But, yeah, they did avoid the obnoxious ads (at first)

I think that's debatable, perhaps it wasn't as bad as MySpace at the time, but the facebook I joined in 2008 was fairly obnoxious with advertisers using profile pictures of the users left and right; the thought of it becoming a company the size of Google never crossed my mind back then. In retrospect I think they were very lucky not to lose their userbase and traction to a better service when the advertising and application spam got unbearable.

I'm one of the few people I think who joined MySpace after Facebook since my college opened the doors to FaceBook 2005 (or more accurate FaceBook opened it's doors).

MySpace was the wild west of social networking. I only joined after so many people kept asking if I'd join. FaceBook was so limited when it started out, with minimal interactions, one picture and groups. The only reason Myspace lasted as long as it did was FaceBook took time to gear up and open to the public. After that, it was doomed.

Facebook's main appeal to me was that users couldn't customize their pages. It was fantastic. When they allowed everyone to embed "apps" all over their pages, I disabled it and stopped using it for awhile until they got that cleaned up.

MySpace was a stepping stone from GeoCities to Facebook.

When FB went public at that "insane market cap," the IPO kerfuffle and all that followed, I had a few interesting conversations. I had been working for a while in online advertising, a lot of adwords and other ad platforms so I had a fairly good understanding of the forthcoming advertising product that was supposedly going to determine FB's actual value.

Anyway, my take on it was this: FB stock (at the time) is mostly a bet on two questions. (1) Can they remain the major social network where everyone has a profile and logs in regularly? (2) Can they build an ad platform that makes money off that position. Most people were curious about #2, I think because FB delayed really finding out the answer until after the IPO.

For the second question, I thought 'yes' was most likely. I had (and still have) a lot of confidence in the power of scale to add value to an ad network. The bigger the userbase, the more targeting opportunities you have. If you can limit your audience to people in their 30s, with kids, within 5 miles^ and still end up with enough people to bother I think you have a valuable ad platform.^^ Anyway, the answer is yes. FB advertising is one of the world's blue ribbon cash cows.

That's the difference between millions and billions.

The first question though, I was (and am) less confident about. For FB to be a good investment it needs to last decades. Google has maintained its search position for a decade, but who knows if Facebook can in social. A lot of the forces at work are more cultural than economic or technological and unpredictable. Will it become uncool, unpopular. Will popular focus shift to some new shiny thing. It's a much harder question. Maybe a reason to think that it can is if you think FB-size and network effects locks a service into position in ways that Myspace-size doesn't. Maybe FB's deep pockets will let them acquire, innovate, advertise and otherwise spend their way to long term survival. I don't really have and educate way of guessing at this question.

^Add in "who are within 2 degrees of people that have visited your site" and you're really cookin.

^^tangent: if you could combine a streaming TV service with Netflix-like penetration using FB login and FB ad targeting, I'd wager you could make more in ad revenue using only a small fraction of airtime than traditional TV. IE 10 second "preroll" ads, unobtrusive banner ads (on pause, buffer, etc) with FB's targeting would earn more per viewer than traditional TV's.

> if you could combine a streaming TV service with Netflix-like penetration using FB login and FB ad targeting, I'd wager you could make more in ad revenue using only a small fraction of airtime than traditional TV. IE 10 second "preroll" ads, unobtrusive banner ads (on pause, buffer, etc) with FB's targeting would earn more per viewer than traditional TV's.

It's coming. The next wave in advertising will be ad targeting based on addressable set top boxes, which basically means targeted video ads on TV. Advertisers will be able to do things like "make sure each household sees my ad five times" to avoid cases where people who watch lots of TV see it twenty times and people who don't watch much only see it once. With addressable STB's + microtargeting there will be a whole new set of companies for which it will be profitable to advertise on TV. Right now the long tail of niche companies has no chance of profitably advertising on TV because their target only makes up a very, very, very small percentage of an individual program (think about a company advertising Bitcoin ASIC's for example). But if they get addressability + microtargeting right then they can make sure that only households which are interested in Bitcoin ASIC's see the ads.


Plugging into FB's user identification gives you way more than just location. Targeting and performance/conversion tracking.

To give you an example, imagine you own a gym and you are recruiting members. I think with a really well targeted campaign to 1,000 people could yield a 5% signup rate over a month, 50 people. That's a guess, but I think it's not unreasonable. Most gyms would gladly pay $50-$100 per member for that result, so $2,500-$5,000 to target 1,000 people.

That means a single SME advertiser could pay half the current price of a netflix subscription for a 1000 . Obviously, those 1,000 people will be targeted by more than one advertiser.

Targeting & performance tracking are super enhancers. A significant improvement in either of these can yield 10X improvements in ad performance and similar increases in ad revenue. Scale is very important. So are supporting assets, good data sources and ways of creating links between them.

FB already has the best (by far, IMO) platform for creating target groups and one of the best platforms for attribution/performance tracking/conversion tracking. You can upload a list of you gym members and get back an "audience" of their friends, who are 25-40, live in the area… Then you can subdivide it into single women, married women, married men, single men, etc. and try different ads for different people. That's the kind of improvement over TV ads that creates a 1000X increase in value per second of advertising airtime.

*Reading back, it seems from my comments that I'm asserting a lot of things fairly confidently. Obviously, this is a lot of speculation and guestimates based on my understanding of the ad economy and my experience as a buyer.

I dread this scenario and hope an alternative to pay more for television programming is provided. We're down to 45 minutes a day of television right now. Shows consist entirely of Netflix/Amazon Streaming/AppleTV. Forcing ads on us would cause us to drop it all and go back to a movie outing every few weeks.

Besides, ads are all over streaming television but they're in the form of product placements within the content. They're more subtle and don't interrupt the flow of what you are watching.

I think that at least in theory, the idea is akin to what Google did for regular web advertising. Originally before targeting the only real strategy was to blanket sites with every sort of ad imaginable and the only way to stand out was to be more annoying and more flashy. Ad space was worth less so site owners made less money to support their services. People looking for new customers wasted more money because they could only target very broadly based on the topic or general demographic of a website.

Then you got Google ads and the like. Since you could target based on someone's general region or search topics or some other demographic info, ads could be more relevant. They didn't need to be flashy and noisy and could sit alongside search results or website contents as plain text or simple images. People trying to attract customers could focus their ad budgets where they were more likely to have a return and site owners could charge more for ad space since it was worth more.

I think that in theory, cable and other ways of getting TV-type content could move in much the same direction. Instead of just running more ads and hoping that people watching show (x) will be interested, they could run ads for stuff in your city or things in the categories you're interested in. Higher relevance would mean less total ads for the TV company to make the same profit selling ad space. It would mean less ads for things you'll never be interested in. And it would mean less money wasted by companies advertising on deaf ears.

But yeah...while this could happen I'm not really that optimistic. A young Google could take on the old model and replace it but the entrenched TV and cable companies would likely just add it to their arsenal. Instead of fewer, more lucrative targeted ads paying for now-free service, you'll just see the same subscription fees and the same pile of interruptions. Just now they'll be targeted.

Targeted ads have some appeal. But, I'm still not sold. Here's an example of why. My wife and I started watching Parenthood recently. There are some very moving scenes in which a couple comes to terms with their Aspberger child's condition. Having the scene ripped away from me to see a car ad (for example) would be maddening.

While it's a good show the scenes are definitely written to have an ad every 10-15 minutes or so. Writers who make it in screenwriting know their bread-and-butter comes from advertisers, so they alter natural story arcs to fit 10-15 minutes slots. It's no wonder that BBC and PBS have better stories: their writers don't have to worry about fitting ads in.

Again, I don't mind product placement to an extent. Parenthood must have 2-3 scenes every episode with an Apple product in focus. Don't alter the flow of a story to fit in an ad though.

Good advertising should benefit both the advertiser and the advertisee. The biggest problem that I have with Google's targeted ads is that my interests are apparently so narrow that I just see the same ads for Stormpath and Pentaho over and over again.

To date, there are 2 and a quarter business models for TV. One and a half is ads. half is paid subscription and the remaining quarter is split between DVD sales, PPV, product placement and such. People are just not going to pay enough in large enough number to compete with advertising. The stuff they do pay for is generally better quality, so I don't want to knock it, but it isn't enough to cover the 23.5 hours per day that we consume.

Paid/subscription has the internet going for. Hulu/Netflix/etc. can operate without (much) infrastructure. But there are (IMO) real pathologies in the economy that we are seeing play out. A nice UI is a plus, but not a long term strategic advantage. The long term strategic advantage is exclusive content. That's great in the sense that it competitively promotes high quality shows. But, it also turns services into silos. People subscribed to Netflix, Premier League and BlubbyTV still don't get Game of Thrones' newest season because HBO.TV need an 8 month exclusion period to sell their $7.99 subscription.

Exclusivity is a waste. TV shows are noncompetitive goods. In the age of torrents, it's also a cause of instability.

Back to ads… A lot of what is bad about TV advertising is based on the old FMCG advertising model. Since they're shown to everyone in a region, they can only sell tampons, cereal, cars, bank accounts, washing powder… products that everyone uses. Products most people care about very little. Branding for mature products where all options are near identical is that dull repetition thing. It takes 100s of views per uninterested person to make sure people remember that Coca Cola is THE real coke.

OTOH, ultra-targeted ads while worrying and creepy from the privacy perspective, are much more relevant. Relevant usually means less annoying. More importantly, it doesn't require that much repetition or overall airtime to do the work. With ideal targeting, a 10 second preroll ad (ad plays before the show starts), banners on pause and other minimal ads can achieve more than 4 X 3 minute ad breaks on regular TV.

This ties into the competitive environment that Netflix-like service compete in. Ads suck and people will switch to itunes, DVDs or torrents. That will help keep them honest and minimize the space/time they can have. Internet streaming has more room for competition. Services will compete on user friendliness and that means there will be a lot of pressure not to annoy people with ads. In fact, minimizing obtrusiveness and maximizing revenues will be the main competitive pressure. Too little revenue and the shows will opt out of your service, too much and subscribers will switch to another service. 10X better than the pathological cable market.

On the business model/economics side of things, ad revenue is better than subscription at distributing the loot. Shows can get a portion of ad revenue for their views, hopefully the lion's share. This gives shows an incentive to increase viewership across all platforms. Exclusivity can go away. All content can be available everywhere. just make the best show to win.

Shows won't need to go around trying to cut exclusive deals. It will be in their interest to be on all platforms. For a platform to buy exclusivity, they will need to beat the potential ad revenue earned on all the other platforms, a high bar for any show worth pursuing.

Overall, I think that an ad-based TV economy will have the best effect on the complex as a whole. Ads will reward shows that are successful across all on-demand platforms and that will encourage the types of high quality binge-watchable shows that I think are finally rivaling novels from a story, character and art perspective.

Outliers will still have the option of purchasing shows on itunes and stuff like that. If they are really a decent market, some of the streaming services might offer ad free options at a higher price. But, I think sufficient competition (no reason there shouldn't be) will arrive at a result with more revenue, less overhead and a lot less airtime dedicated to ads.

^The giant mammoth in the living room is privacy. I think it'll be 10 years before we've worked this one out. I haven't gone into it because I don't know what I think.

> Will it become uncool, unpopular. Will popular focus shift to some new shiny thing.

It seems to me that it already has, and that this hasn't mattered. The world only needs one "boring public-face social network", and that's Facebook.

Teenagers will use Tumblr or Snapchat or Instagram or whatever else to get laid. But they'll send friend requests to their actual real-life friends—the ones they don't want to expose their online self to—on Facebook. Because that's what you do.

It's a niche, sort of like how business cards still exist despite the ability to email contact information around.

> if you could combine a streaming TV service with Netflix-like penetration using FB login and FB ad targeting, I'd wager you could make more in ad revenue.

Facebook already serves up 3 Billion video views per day and has a great video ad unit. They also have a mobile app partner network where they serve ads on third party apps.

I think everyone in advertising thinks mobile video ad units will surpass every other ad unit and media due to its massive scale and proven effectiveness.

If you aren't running video ads on mobile through Facebook in 2015... You are stuck in the past.

How does it compare to Applifier/Unity Ads?

> Google has maintained its search position for a decade, but who knows if Facebook can in social.

I think the answer is no, which is why you see both companies invest in such moonshots as mobile operating systems, virtual reality, drones and autonomous vehicles.

Better question would be - can they use their current market dominance to execute properly when the next wave of computing comes along?

I may be off on the timeline a little bit, but this guy started off at MySpace in 2009. From what I remember, Facebook had clearly "won" at that point as the personal social network (like, where you interacted with your friends) and had been for at least a year or two.

MySpace was largely regarded, at that point, as a cesspool, but still had the appeal of being the place to interact with famous people and the platform famous people used to interact with their fans.

In that sense, MySpace had already lost to Facebook in one aspect and was about ready to lose to Twitter in the other.

The article clearly states, "By 2009, MySpace was still the biggest website in terms of traffic, but Facebook was growing fast by this point, and according to Percival the atmosphere was defeatist when he joined the company.

“I remember the first meeting they had me set up with the whole team, and it was the saddest, most awkward meeting I’ve ever been in, in my life. And I’ve been in some really sad meetings. Literally sat there and everyone was so defeated,” he said.

“The analogy I use is like you were the half-time [basketball] coach, and I walk in and it’s half-time, and you’re down by 100 points … They had been beat down by that corporate bureaucracy, they knew they were about to lose to Facebook. They knew that the end was near. They could smell it.”"

Former MySpace engineer here. Got there when it was 1500 people and left when it was 300. The company failed for these reasons:

* MySpace sold ads to Google when they didn't have ad inventory to sell. MySpace had to meet impression thresholds each month or pay penalties to Google. To meet those requirements, MySpace added ads where they should not have been. Impression ads were put up in odd places. MySpace forced users to log in for the sake of generating an impression. The result was a poor user experience.

* Tom & Chris were from an email spam shop background. eUniverse bought Tom & Chris email spam company. Once eUniverse had the emails, Tom & Chris had nothing to do, so they put their effort into creating something new. Friendster was doing well at the time, they decided to clone it, the result was MySpace. Spam and poor user experiences were part of their upbringing and it showed in MySpace.

* There were no coding standards. Engineering teams worked in silos with each team having their own standards. For example, at one time someone put a picture of all the different submit buttons in the break room. Tom & Chris shared this brake room. I'm not sure if the poster was motivational or insulting. We all knew the site looked ugly and this picture of all the different submit buttons quantified it.

* MySpace didn't leverage an API. FB users had the ability to add plug ins like calendars and classified ads from a myriad of sources. The result was users were able to choose the best solution. MySpace users were given the same tools built internally. Those tools were pushed out in rapid succession, without much effort, and users were left with poorly created solutions.

* MySpace cherished metrics that had no meaning. Your number of friends, for example, were meaningless. People like Percival created companies to help people add friends under the guise that having friends meant something. MySpace bought into that snake oil, Percival perpetuated it, then they hired him on as a VP.

* MySpace thought allowing users to create their own unique page was a competitive advantage. Users were given the ability to embed their own HTML within their own page. The result was ugly bloated pages. At MySpace, we had an internal message board to debate ideas. This idea was debated and people in product defended the ability to customize pages as a competitive advantage.

* Chris & Aber were distracted by 'partying'. Hang out at the bars on Wilshire Blvd, you'll hear things and I'll leave it at that.

* Employees were not given stock. Given salaries were great, people did not seem to be emotionally invested in the companies success.

    Chris & Aber were distracted by 'partying'.
    Hang out at the bars on Wilshire Blvd, you'll
    hear things and I'll leave it at that.
I was at a tech conference in the late 00's where I heard a VP (of Engineering?) from MySpace give a talk about the site's architecture. This was probably 9 or 9:30 in the morning, and—I swear—he must've been totally coked up. If that's how you, as a vice president, behave when you're up on a stage at a conference, I wonder how you'd behave behind closed doors.

If I recall correctly, toward the end, MySpace forced most users to "upgrade" their profiles to "2.0", which erased all their HTML and CSS customizations in the process. Many users were extremely upset about this and I suspect it was a major catalyst for the exodus.

Here's the Guardian in 2007 worrying about how Myspace will never lose its monopoly:


I don't understand this notion that "Google and Apple don't get social". What's to get or not get? Google+ beats FB for features and usability by a mile. Who could have possibly thought that Twitter would be a huge success? I still don't get it! What does Instagram do that FB didn't already do? I love all these analysts tripping over themselves to come up with a formula for a business model that at it's core relies on dumb luck.

Google have repeatedly gone to the mat to fight what its users want and request, overridden those requests, and/or taken what people consider to be absolutely and beyond any call theirs and made clear it was Google's.

Nymwars, Real Names, spamming contacts with G+ Circles, spamming Calendar with G+ events selected by other people, Notifications spam, forced integration of products, an absolutely deaf ear on any privacy issues or concerns, an insistence that "you're doing it wrong" (Circles, various settings, lord knows what), forced YouTube integration with G+, make-work interfaces, and more.

Experiences with Glass, Streetview, WiFi snooping, Do Not Track bypassing, or the many, many, many other killed Google products only hammer home how Google simply fails to comprehend issues of privacy. They're not defined by technology, they're not defined by law. They're defined by social norms, and the boundaries people define. Boundaries Google crosses all the fucking time.

The conflicts between what Google does, and what their former Director of Privacy, Alma Whitten, said, is staggering. Look up her old talks. I've got a few quotes on my G+ profile ("Edward Morbius").

People's use-cases differ, but in a nutshell, I'm looking for a way to have good an interesting conversations with people, without a tremendous breach in my personal privacy. Google ultimately wants to sell ads, but I'm 1) not buying those and 2) really not a choice target regardless.

There's an inherent conflict in the "social" space, and I don't really see any way around it.

And if it weren't about luck, why would Google have had to close Google Video and buy YouTube? Clearly, making a website is not enough. It has to be launched at the right moment.

Yeah, seems like a rather commodified set of features now.

There's nothing that Google doesn't get, but that Snapchat or Instagram mysteriously do.

G+ also beats FB for memory consumption by a mile.

I never understood the website besides listening to band songs. But at least it was a feature that Facebook has never really done and it took some time (for me) for Spotify, Grooveshark or Youtube to fill in.

You heard about about a band and you could listen to some songs instantaneously without downloading it on eMule or Torrent, it was great.

That was also the only use I ever got out of MySpace, checking out new bands/musicians quickly to decide whether I wanted to hear more. IIRC facebook did try a similar feature but never really catched on.

For me it was also the 'groups', which were basically a free one-click alternative to PHPBB, albeit more primitive. For many niche interests, it was actually livelier than reddit is today.

Persistent security holes plagued them, though, and it sort of disappeared shortly after the News Corp buyout. Nothing I've read paints a picture of Myspace as a classic feat of software engineering.

This is where I think Vkontakte has got it right. It's basicly Facebook but allows audio to be uploaded into your profile. As a result, I find it to be a perfect replacement for discovering new bands in the same way I used Myspace. It's mainly russian bands who use the site, however.

edit: should have read the whole link before posting :)

Great article but it misses an essential difference between MySpace and Facebook. Facebook was built for Mark Zuckerberg and MySpace was built for News Corporation. Zuckerberg understood the interests and tastes of his generation. MySpace only understood the interests of their advertisers.

Is that true? I recall myspace creator "tom" being its very public face in the early days, and it only got sold to newscorp after it was already big.

MySpace launched in 2003, News Corporation bought it in 2005.


> Facebook was built for Mark Zuckerberg and MySpace was built for News Corporation.

Wow. That is a huge difference. Kind of like the difference between fact and fiction?

MySpace was built by a bunch of knuckle heads. It was _destroyed_ by News Corporation.

Good history transcript. Has the Guardian given any other conference speeches this quality of transcript?

Steve Albini (the noted musician and producer) had a great talk about the Internet and the music industry at a conference a few months ago. The Guardian wrote a nice a recap [0] and published a full transcript (enriched with pull quotes and some images) [1].

[0] http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/nov/17/steve-albini-at...

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/nov/17/steve-albinis-k...

I was kind of hoping a Panic at the Disco song started playing when I opened the article/

There a good book about the whole history of MySpace: http://www.amazon.com/Stealing-MySpace-Control-Popular-Websi...

It was a good read. The most interesting parts were the backstory behind how MySpace got started. In particular, how the company pivoted a number of times before getting the social network idea to really catch on. It was fascinating to see how they went from selling these cheap toys at kiosks in the mall to becoming a tech media network.

I'm just finishing reading another book called Click by Bill Tancer written around the same period. And Myspace had 3 out of the top 10 searches for brand websites (myspace, myspace.com, and www.myspace.com). Facebook had just appeared on the scene and was in the 10th search spot.

I went to a marketing conference in the UK in around 2004 or 2005 where someone from MySpace was talking about what a great opportunity it was for marketing to their audience. At the time I was using http://mixi.jp which was way ahead in terms of usability and reliability than MySpace (mixi later lost out to Facebook too, mainly because of their own missteps). But it was obvious even in ~ 2005 that a reliable, usable social network would kill MySpace dead.

He's a "VP of online marketing", not a VP of UX. He wouldn't know what went wrong.

MySpace had a horrible UX. You felt _dirty_ after browsing a few pages. Everything was all over the place; the form (UI) destroyed the function (social network). It was like Geocities and Friendster had a love-child that was addicted to LSD.

Stereotypically, no one on LSD would be nearly so tasteless.

MySpace felt more like a raging alcoholic to me.

If only UX was all that was wrong. ;-)

Seriously, he got there in 2009. MySpace's active user base hadn't grown since 2006 (hey, that year rings a bell, did something happen? ;-).

>> “It was one of the most annoying things you could do with an ad, but they just didn’t care: they had no respect for the users. It was all about monetisation. Making money, squeezing every dollar out of it,” said Percival.

You can say this about pretty much every traditional news site out there today. Most of them are just horrible.

Yeah, this is a guy getting a lot of press about something he was at best tangentially involved with.

I think you can't look at the "how MySpace" lost story without considering the "how Facebook won" angle.

Myspace lost, in part, because it found itself in competition with a company run by a very talented team with big ambitions and ample connections.

They should have sold Spyspace as ten bucks a month feature. That was a great hack, loved seeing who had visited my page and the gotcha of catching some weird things in my friends cliboards when they visited my page.

I wonder what would happen if MySpace were to suddenly revert back to the old version.

What would they have to lose? It would make the headlines the world over, and people would be getting back the MySpace they signed up for.

In the article I find these two statements, from Percival, contradicting:

"Percival talked about what the company might have done differently, and admitted that by the time he arrived in 2009, it was possibly unsaveable – not least because by that time, it was difficult to hire the most talented engineers against competition from Facebook, Google and other rising tech companies."

“There are companies that do not get social and they never will. Apple’s one of them, Google is the other: they’ve failed with Google+. When your culture is engineering-focused, you do not understand social. Social is a very emotional experience. Engineers are not so much, in a lot of cases,”

Try interpreting "most talented engineers" and "understanding social" as orthogonal categories. Success in this market required both, but they don't necessarily come together in the exact same people/companies.

Not contradictory to me. The second statement does not say nor imply anything about Myspace, or anything about an engineering culture at Myspace.

Maybe I didn't make it clear enough.

In the first quote he basically says MySpace didn't have the engineers to save the company.

In the second quote he basically says engineers are not what make the social industry tick. Yes, he's talking about Apple and Google here, but he's contradicting what he said.

Regardless I'm not sure why he said the first quote in the at all. The problem they had, had nothing to do with Engineers, but had everything to do with the company culture.

The first quote is there for the benefit of people who aren't in the industry, and did not realize that Myspace wasn't hot among engineers in 2009.

You are misconceiving the second quote. That quote is the end of the article, where it has moved on from the topic of "What happened at Myspace", and is talking about the social networking industry at large. I do not interpret it as being a stab at Myspace specifically, nor about what happened there.

What destroys a lot of huge companies? Lack of focus.

They messed up the show listings. It went from the definitive listing of every event in the country, to being unusable overnight.

"The baggage was really intense."

What an odd metaphor!

It amazes me how they could manage to keep that thing alive for all these years.

It was the classic "spend a billion to make a million." It works every time!

The customizable web presence is what killed it.

" “They went to Friendster and found all the hot girls who got kicked off Friendster. You may remember Tila Tequila. She was a very very big deal on MySpace. But she was a Friendster user,” he said.

“They kicked her off because she was just too damn sexy. "


I think that we are missing part of the story here. I mean, come on! I stopped reading at this point.

Why do you find it unthinkable that Friendster might ban users for posting racy pictures?

Of course he is painting in broad strokes in the interview, but MySpace's 'in' was that they started by attracting creative people, such as wannabe models, musicians and photographers.

I don't remember anything even remotely shocking on MySpace, but the mere presence of people like Tila Tequila was a 'important' factor in MySpace fame at that point. Wasn't it the first breach between remote celebrities and you on the web ? Before that all you had was tiny bits of medias, and all of a sudden, you get to comment on their page. Not even an official website, but the same website you have a profile on.

They used to allow nudity, but then their sponsors started cracking down on them.

Personally I've always found it unbelievable that anyone found Tila Tequila sexy.

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