MYSPACE — The Good, The Bad and The Future
What social media marked your teen years? A vast majority would answer this question with Myspace. This online community defined a generation and now, a decade later, it has adapted into a completely different platform. In this article, I will be analyzing the successes of the new Myspace and the flaws limiting this online community, as well as proposing actions for improvement. Insights from Kraut and Resnick’s book Building Successful Online Communities will be used in order to better analyze and advise this platform.
Myspace was founded in August 2003 by Tom Anderson, Chris DeWolfe, Brad Greenspan and Josh Berman, all employees of an internet marketing company named eUniverse. These men were inspired by Friendster’s social networking concept, and therefore decided to create a similar community. They officially launched Myspace in January 2004, and with just one month, one million people had signed up for their social media. The numbers kept growing, reaching the first position in the most-visited website in the US in 2006 — beating Google search and Yahoo! Mail. In 2005 Intermix Media, Myspace’s parent company, was sold to News Corporation for $580 million and Myspace at the time was valued at $327 million. Although Myspace reached its peak in 2008 with almost 76 million unique visitors in the United States, Facebook launched that same year and slowly took away users from Myspace. In 2011 Myspace was bought by Justin Timberlake and Specific Media Group, who eventually remodeled this online community and turned it into a website for connecting artists with their fans. In order to stay alive after the devastating effects of Facebook, Myspace decided to cater to a niche market — the music industry. Now Myspace is an entertainment-focused site that plays music videos and songs, as well as featuring articles covering diverse topics.
Myspace’s introduction states that it is “a place where people come to connect, discover, and share. Showcasing artists and their work, Myspace gives people access to a massive digital music library. With roots in music and social, the platform is built to empower all artists — from musicians and designers to writers and photographers — helping them connect with audiences, collaborators, and partners to achieve their goals”. This platform has evolved into an online community for social interaction concerning entertainment and the music. Myspace has done a great job in creating an atmosphere where people can create “mixes” with their favorite music, allowing others to then listen to your selection. Myspace has revolutionized the sharing of music industry content. With an online community dedicated to the cause, people are more likely to discover new artists, share their favorite music styles and encourage others to do the same, all whilst interacting with others.
It is clear that the platform’s users are extremely committed to their art. According to Kraut and Resnick, “Commitment to a group, organization or community can be based on feelings of closeness to other individuals in the group, feelings of strong identification with the group or its main interest, feelings of obligation to the community, or even the costs or risks of leaving the community”. Since Myspace is a platform that encourages discovery, connections and sharing, Kraut and Resnick’s commitment claim is applied. Users’ interests are targeted, creating a feed that shows artists, posts, music and videos that specific consumer can relate to, assuring this user will commit to the platform. Also, people registered to Myspace are passionate about the music and entertainment industry, allowing them to feel closer to others in the community for they know they all share this sentiment towards thee topics. The connection to the content and other users in Myspace brings out the intrinsic motivation of users. Due to the purpose of the platform, people are more likely to seek internal rewards from the pleasure of discovering, sharing and interacting with entertainment media and artists’ works. Kraut and Resnick adds that intrinsic rewards “are tied to the commitment of the user to the community and with respect to others members in the community”, further proving that users in Myspace are committed to their passions and to having healthy interactions with others like you. Myspace encourages users to interact with each other, and therefore discover new artist, post or song.
Myspace has also succeeded in improving their interface. When first signing up for Myspace, you are asked to select your interests, listed as categories such as Politics, Movies, Entertainment, Economics, and so on. This selection will determine the articles, suggested connections, and the music you will be exposed to when opening the platform. Likewise, content that does not interest you will not appear on your Discover or Stream. As Kraut and Resnick affirms, “redirecting inappropriate posts to other places creates less resistance than removing them”. If you do not wish to see a post that has showed up by accident on your stream, then you may report it. Myspace will then remove that content from your eyes, and depending on the offense, will determine if that post may remain online or if it is offensive to anyone. Furthermore, this platform has adapted to this new online era. CEO Tim Vanderhook understands that, “no one wants to manage another social network. We think it is unique and distinct it integrates with Facebook and Twitter to be able to pull over your social graph and pull over your identity of who you are”. Myspace has made it easier for newcomers to join by simply logging into the site through Facebook or Twitter, without the hassle of signing up with an email account. Lastly, they maintained the feedback options in this new version of Myspace. Users can comment on others’ posts or article, or like a song or album, connect to a post and article, or even share that content on Myspace, Facebook and Twitter. Myspace has succeeded in innovating its interface, improving interaction between users and personalizing users’ stream and main pages.
Change is hard no matter what. Since Myspace started as a social media platform, most users committed “infocide”. According to Joseph Reagle in “410 Gone”: Infocide in Open Content Communities, “there can be many, mixed, or even contradictory motives for infocide — like any human behavior […] However, I discern at least three types of (not necessarily exclusive) infocide: exhaustion, online discontent, and privacy concerns”. In Myspace’s case, users were attracted by Facebook’s cleaner interface, the verifiability of users’ profiles and the easy connection to your close friends and family. After experiencing with Facebook and it’s clean, easy to use profile page, users were not motivated to return to Myspace. Most users ended up deleting their profiles or simply abandoning them. Once all your friends were on Facebook, there was no point for you not to join them. After all, as Ciadini mentions in The Science of Persuasion, “if many individuals have decided in favor of a particular idea, we are more likely to follow, because we perceive the idea to be more correct, more valid”. Former CEO Mike Jones admitted that, “Facebook was able to overtake MySpace because Facebook “perfected” the social networking concept, whereas MySpace just introduced people to it”. Myspace then was forgotten.
Although the new Myspace has been remodeled, there are still deficiencies in the layout of the platform. Despite the innovations, posting on someone’s profile seems impossible. As a newcomer myself, I still have not found how to post on someone’s “wall”. On the connection button there is the option to send a message, but that directs you to a chat for it is a private messaging tool for communication. If the platform was transformed to aid in the conversation between artists and fans, then why can’t I post on their profile? As Kraut and Resnick states, “providing opportunities for members to engage in personal conversation increases bonds-based commitment in online communities”. Furthermore, it seems as if big artists do not check or engage in Myspace. So is this platform truly performing how it should? For a digital space to talk about movies, music, fashion or anything relevant to pop culture, I do not see much talking happening. Furthermore, the side-scroll although unique, is extremely inconvenient. Having the pages (profiles, music and posts) scrolling down would facilitate users, both ancient and newcomers.
Another issue I faced when being reintroduced to Myspace was finding out my email had already been used. I did not realize my email had ever been linked to the platform, so that definitely startled me. This points out privacy issues that probably occurred in the old version of the platform or during the transition, damaging the trust and connection from the user to the platform. Additionally, deleting people’s old profiles caused users to be frustrated. Although there is a way you can request your photos and music from the previous version of the platform, the process takes days. A request is sent to administrators and if possible, you will recover your past profile content. This process highlights Kraut and Resnick’s claim that, “simple requests lead to more compliance than do lengthy and complex ones”. The frustration of having to wait for an answer to see if you will be able to access a content that in theory is yours, is extremely demotivating, therefore damaging the compliance of users.
Let’s bring back “social media” to Myspace, while maintaining the current pop culture platform
People are desperately asking for the old version of Myspace to return, as you can see below. These are diverse comments I found online urging for Myspace’s triumphant return.
Since there are so many ancient and current users that would appreciate and enjoy an implementation of older functions from Myspace, why not implement them? Myspace is still a platform devoted to the music industry and pop culture. However, adding social media elements back to Myspace would not damage the purpose of the community. In fact, Kraut and Resnick affirm, “that providing user profile pages and flexibility in personalizing them increases self-disclosure and interpersonal liking”. By re-implementing more personalization to the profiles of users, Myspace would be attracting old users and newcomers since there is no social media anymore with freedom for personalization. Furthermore, Nathan Matias believes, “you can’t create a welcoming culture simply by adding a “thanks” button”. By bringing back a function where people can thank each other for sharing content or simply by connecting with others, users will feel more comfortable to remain in the community.
It would also increase the interactions between users, bootstrapping the present users and encouranging them to invite others to join the online community. After all, “people are more likely to comply with request when they see that other people have also complied”, snowballing the number of newcomers to the platform. To attract more newcomers, Myspace could reach out to previous users reminding that the platform still exists. Once these users return, they might bring newcomers with them. Kraut and Resnick believe “word-of-mouth recruiting is substantially more powerful than impersonal advertising”. People tend to trust their friends and are more likely to follow their advice than if receiving a standard email from an online community.
They should also add a private link to each user’s old profile, in case they want to relive and reminisce their adolescence. Still, maintaining the link to the musical side of Myspace is crucial. Even before the remodeled, the platform and users were known for their musical tastes. Therefore keeping the songs, mixes and pop-up videos are necessary to maintain the integrity of the community.
Finally, Myspace needs an app! I am not sure what happened to the one I saw advertised on the platform’s Wikipedia page, but the Myspace community needs a mobile application in order to survive in this technological world.
These improvements would help bring back users to Myspace. Times have changed, but so has the platform. I believe the Myspace community is ready to “boom” again. By fusing some of the old characteristics to the new platform, Myspace will be successful again.
After all, don’t we all miss having Tom as our best friend?