Why MySpace failed and what we can learn from it.

MySpace sells out

Years ago I remember excitedly starting a MySpace page. I was no stranger to online communities, back in high school I would get on bulletin boards with my Dad’s 28.8 cardinal modem, then AOL chat rooms, etc. MySpace felt like gratification, because finally there was a cool place for me to interact with friends who were less techie. People were easily able to get online and build a small presence without programming knowledge. There was the remote possibility of meeting new friends. We could add photos to profiles and share music. It was an idea that was unparalleled at the time, but like so many great ideas, it outgrew itself.

They were purchased for $580 million in 2005 and will be sold off later this month for $20 to $30 million. That’s roughly 5%. Yikesies.

MySpace sells out

MySpaced OUT

My thought on the failure of MySpace is twofold, both pollution and interface. When someone uses Facebook they are very clearly directed to behave like a person, not a company. There is heavy segmentation of friends vs. groups vs. pages. People can be marked as “spam” for promoting too heavily. I have seen cases where people tried to make his/her persona into a company’s persona and the account was shut down.

Are you people?

Facebook has very rabidly sought to keep the idea of a person separate from corporate interests. Only Facebook gets to market to you, use your data for themselves and resell it. We are not meant to broker business. MySpace only ever offered “friends” so when companies caught wind of the popularity of the site, it was flooded with marketing mumbo jumbo. Don’t even get me started on the would-be pickup scene! MySpace became the repository for sleezy pickups and corporate spamming. There was no quality assurance or internal controls by MySpace to make sure people were actually people. Facebook benefited from this knowledge, clearly.


Somehow I wanted to reach for a face-off pun, that horrible movie with John Travolta…. Anyway! The interface on MySpace was fairly polluted from day 1. Around 2007 and 2008 there were numerous redesigns, so many that users felt lost. In an effort to stop competing with Facebook as a social network around 2010 MySpace moved towards music distribution. In the Valley we talk about pivots all the time and how businesses need to have them. Pivoting just means changing directions in business, much like a basketball pivots to get away from an opponent. I think in this case there were simply too many pivots. Too many small changes and not enough big ones were made to the MySpace user experience.

For me it is nostalgia mixed a bit with hope. I hope Facebook and the other larger social networks take a cue from this failure. You can stay on top for a while, but not forever. Ultimately it is up to all of us as users to determine where we want our content and who can see it. All of us could wake up one day and leave Facebook! It’s within our power, we shouldn’t forget that.

Users rule and social networks drool! Ha! Thanks for reading. 🙂