Why Did MySpace Fail?

Today, MySpace prides itself on being a place for “artists and their work.” The (surprisingly still active) website explains it “gives people access to 53 million tracks and videos-the world’s largest digital music library.”

[Image from MySpace]

Although these statistics sound like a lot of users, let’s compare it to Facebook users in 2017:

[Image from Statista]

Looking at MySpace from this perspective, it’s “14.2 million artists” seems small. However, this wasn’t always the case with the once most popular social network. In fact, in 2006, MySpace was recorded as having more daily visits than both Google and Yahoo! Mail. Although MySpace now prides itself on being used mainly by musicians, this wasn’t the original intent of the website. When the site first launched in 2003, it quickly took to the liking of teenagers and young adults. Essentially, MySpace was one of the first social networks of its kind. It allowed people from all over the world to connect and come together in one spot, while also allowing them to customize their own homepage, with page layouts, music, and of course its trademarked “Top friends.”

The original site was a lot different than it is now — which may be one of the reasons for the decline. In order to fully understand MySpace, let’s take a look at a timeline of the website…

A Brief History of MySpace

In August of 2003, MySpace was launched by a group of programmers and the leading Ceos: Brad Greenspan, Chris DeWolfe, Josh Berman, and of course the starting president, Tom Anderson.

These “founding fathers” of MySpace belonged to the marketing company eUniverse and all had one thing in common — they wanted to take similar characteristics from Friendster and create a new social network.

By July of 2005, MySpace was sold to News Corporation (the parent company of Fox Broadcasting) for $580 million. Throughout the next few years, MySpace went through several different companies and was ran under different CEOs. By 2007, MySpace was still seen as the leading social networking site. At a time when Facebook was targeted to only college students, MySpace was able to reach a wider audience.

However, by April of 2008 the tables had turned and Facebook had begun to climb the charts as the new top social network. As MySpace users declined, the franchise turned to ads in order to keep revenue. However, these ads that would be featured throughout the website, ended up making the site slower and more difficult to use. While Facebook was starting out with a clean design and new business ideas, MySpace was falling behind. As an attempt to save the website, new features broke out like music players, messaging options, karaoke, self-advertising, etc. However, these new features just added to the slow nature of the site and only took more money out of the company.

As explained in this article from The Guardian, MySpace had spent hundreds of millions of dollars building its own content. More money was being poured out and the baggage that came with the site was becoming too much for users. MySpace had eventually lost sight of the “social’ part of social media. Once this happened, MySpace had admitted to losing the “social war.” From there, they decided to focus on music, which now remains as the site’s new purpose.

From a business perspective: MySpace vs Facebook

As MySpace began failing, Facebook was on the rise. While MySpace was being sold and purchased by different companies, they were given professional managers to guide its growth and success. In comparison, Facebook was started by college students, for college students. While MySpace was being bombarded with ads and new features trying to save themselves, Facebook was developing new features that users actually wanted to see: interactive games, new ways to find friends, etc. In a weird way, the fact that Facebook’s CEOs and founders never had a plan for where their social network would go worked out for them in the long run. While MySpace was caught up in the hype of selling/buying to and from big companies, Facebook was going with the flow and giving their users what they wanted.

The professional managers at [MySpace] looked into the future, decided what to do, and did it.  They didn’t leave direction up to market feedback and crafty techies – they ran MySpace like a professional business…. [At Facebook, they were] letting dedicated people learn from their successes, and failures, and move fast to keep the business in the fast moving water. There [was] no manager, leader or management team that [could] predict, plan and execute as well as a team that [had] its ears close to the market, and the flexibility to react quickly, willing to make mistakes (and learn from them even faster) without bias for a predetermined plan.” — Adam Hartung, Forbes

From users’ perspective: MySpace vs Facebook

Aside from the slow nature and ads that begun taking over MySpace, what else caused users to give up on the site?

Although MySpace had been around before Facebook, the real problem was that in some ways MySpace was like the building block of social media. While MySpace was testing out new features, Facebook was perfecting them and focusing on the social aspect of social media. Mike Jones, a former CEO of MySpace explained that the real feature that interested people in Facebook over MySpace was the fact that Facebook replicated real life. While MySpace was a place for people to use screen names or pseudonyms, Facebook allowed people to share parts of their real lives. As the idea of using your real identity online became more common, so did the amount of Facebook users.

Today, as of November 2017, Facebook now holds the title as #1 used social network.

[Image from DreamGrow]

Still, just as target audiences of these social networks are changing, so are the social networks themselves. Who knows what will come next in our technology-obsessed world…

For further reading, check out these articles…

  • Why Did MySpace Fail? — Speeli
  • 5 Things People Want in Social Media Today — Inc
  • Facebook Dominance Forces Rival Networks to go Niche — The Telegraph

About the Author

Domenica is a senior at Rowan University pursuing a degree in Liberal Studies with concentrations in Writing Arts and Sociology with a minor in Early Childhood Education.