David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

The End of MySpace

Ziff-Davis’ Baseline recently published an insider’s look at how MySpace functions on a technical level, and it’s quite revealing.

The common assumption among programming types about MySpace is that the system started off as somebody’s pet project and quickly mushroomed beyond the programmers’ control. Rather than cooling off growth to create a better infrastructure, the MySpace folks opted for growth at any costs. As a result, we end up with the buggy, unreliable usability nightmare that is MySpace today. Now, it’s assumed, the programmers and sysadmins are scrambling to play catchup.

This article pretty much confirms these assumptions. According to the article, MySpace started out as a ColdFusion-based project — and while ColdFusion is ridiculously easy to program, any developer can tell you it’s got a reputation (deserved or not) for being a little slow and resource-heavy on the performance scale. So as they’ve grown, MySpace has been moving to Microsoft’s ASP.Net and relying on emulators to port some of the older code over.

One can’t really blame MySpace for such logic. It’s the kind of hot-air logic that propelled companies like Pets.com to the stratosphere back in the ’90s and made a ton of people oodles and oodles of cash. It’s Web 1.0 thinking. Using such Web 1.0 thinking, MySpace has quickly vaulted to become the most visited site on the Internet and gotten snatched up by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. in the process.

But as a result, they’ve built on an unsustainable foundation. They’ve made the classic gamble that short-term gain will trump long-term stability. And like so many Web 1.0 companies that came before them, MySpace is headed for a big, clumsy fall. Here’s why.

  • Easy come, easy go. The base audience for MySpace consists of teenagers and folks in their twenties. That’s not to say this is the only demographic using MySpace, but that’s the core audience. These people flocked to the service for the same reasons young people flock to anything: it was new, it was cool, it was free, and everyone they knew was doing it. Give them an alternative that’s newer, cooler, better functioning, and more reliable — not to mention backed by big corporate dollars — and they’ll flock there just as quickly.
  • Insecurity. Recently someone came up with the grand idea of distributing malicious code through a security vulnerability in embedded QuickTime videos. Folks have been taking advantage of CSS and HTML quirks to hack MySpace almost since the place began. More and more people are complaining about hacked profiles and hijacked identities. MySpace has demonstrated time and again that they’re behind the curve when it comes to security. So I think it’s highly likely that at some point in the near future, we’ll see a series of successful crippling attacks on MySpace that will send people running in a panicky exodus.
  • Slowing pace of innovation. Adapt or die, that’s the unofficial motto of the Internet. And unlike, say, Google, which continues to pump out features and applications by the gallon, MySpace has remained largely sedentary for the past year. They released a lamentable, old-school IM client and better video integration, but otherwise the system is pretty much the same as it was 18 months ago. As MySpace’s technical problems grow and their folks spend more and more time just keeping up with demand, they’re going to fall even further behind.
  • Facebook. If you want to see an example of a MySpace-like program that actually works, look no further than Facebook. It’s user-friendly, it’s popular, and best of all, it’s reliable. The service’s big handicap at this point is that it doesn’t allow nearly the level of customization that MySpace does. But that’s only one major partnership with Yahoo! away (assuming Yahoo! finally bites the bullet and makes a deal with them already).
  • Where are the premium services? I’m not entirely familiar with the intricacies of MySpace’s business model, but from the looks of things, they’re entirely dependent on advertising. And as Yahoo! has discovered, that’s not a stable strategy for the long term. Why hasn’t MySpace tapped into the burgeoning third-party market of MySpace website pimpers and added services like that of their own? Where are the premium clubs and the premium band promotion services?
  • “Why change?” attitude. A former MySpace VP of operations is quoted in the article as saying: “when you look at the result, it’s hard to argue that what we did with the interface and navigation was bad. And why change it, when you have success?” Few technology companies have succeeded in the long run with the mantra “why change?” It won’t fly on the Internet, where the barriers to migrating to another free service are absolutely nil.

So there you have a few reasons off the top of my head why I think MySpace is headed for a fall. This doesn’t mean that they’ll disappear entirely. After all, Compuserve is still around, and America Online will probably hang on for awhile too even after they’ve recklessly thrown away their customers. But neither are any more than a shell of their former selves, and I suspect that MySpace will eventually meet that fate too.

Is it inevitable? Well, every Goliath falls eventually. That’s just the nature of the universe. But it’s up to MySpace just how far away and how graceful that fall is.

(Related reading: see my previous rants on Why Does MySpace Suck So Badly? and MySpace Spam or Clever Marketing?)

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  1. Paul Raven on January 24, 2007 at 4:58 pm  Chain link

    I long to see it happen. Not because I’m a spoilsport or anything; I’d just like all my mates to be on a social network that is more open to browsing and feed reading by non-members. And doesn’t look so damned ugly. And doesn’t try to sell me so much crap…

    I keep telling people, hey, get a free blog with WordPress or Blogger. More functionality than MySpazz, more customisable, no ads, no two-bit three-month-old punk-jazz bands from Sacramento assuming you’ll ‘give them an add’. The one thing that has worked in MySpazz’s favour is the apathy of Generation Y … but as you point out, that’s not going to hold out much longer. Thank f**k.

  2. […] – The End of MySpace (David Louis Edelman’s Blog) “And like so many Web 1.0 companies that came before them, MySpace is headed for a big, […]

  3. […] The End of MySpace – Oh, please say it’s true. – #Darn it – I think the web ate a couple of the comments I left on […]

  4. Matt Jarpe on January 26, 2007 at 4:16 pm  Chain link

    This is because I joined, isn’t it? Sure, as soon as I get a Myspace page, suddenly it isn’t cool anymore. This is just like in high school where I got up the nerve to sit at the table with the jocks and cheerleaders and they all got up and moved away to another table.

  5. David Louis Edelman on January 26, 2007 at 4:32 pm  Chain link

    But just think, Matt. All those jocks and cheerleaders that made fun of you in high school are now driving trucks and bagging groceries for a living, just like your mother told you they would.

    Then again, one of the people who I couldn’t stand in high school who I always assumed would end up a truck driver or grocery bagger turned out to be the bass player for a hugely popular alternative rock band, and is now probably snorting coke off of hookers’ thighs every night.

  6. Shahrier Akram on February 2, 2007 at 12:59 pm  Chain link

    MySpace is a clunky piece of garbage. It just baffles me why people would flock into a site that is system-wise so dysfunctional.

  7. […] up. All sorts of interesting commentary in the past few weeks on MySpace’s technical architecture and infrastructure issues. As I […]

  8. jeff on February 20, 2007 at 4:01 am  Chain link

    Simply put alot of people are makeing money on myspace. Either by leaveing
    links to their site. Adding comments with banners that link back to their site
    and bands and Night clubs use it to promote themselves. Simply put, Myspace is a
    Free Advertising machine and most people don’t even know the traffic they can get
    By useing it. We use a program called myfriendbuilder and it simply automates all
    our links and stuff. They even have a free version at the site
    http://www.myfriendbuilder.com/

  9. somac07 on May 8, 2007 at 7:08 pm  Chain link

    MySpace is a clunky piece of garbage. It just baffles me why people would flock into a site that is system-wise so dysfunctional.”

    I agree, use Facebook people, myspace is just fugly compared to it. ;)

  10. […] ideologue and sci-fi author David Louis Edelman explains why "MySpace is headed for a big, clumsy fall." Put simply, they are doing Web 1.0, pre-bubble expansion and development in a post-dot-bomb world. […]

  11. AllThatBlog.com on April 15, 2008 at 6:37 pm  Chain link

    Long live MySpace! Woohoo! It is not goin’ anywhere!! I created a new website for cool glitter graphics for you MySpace page. Yea!

  12. Myspace Graphics on April 25, 2008 at 5:14 pm  Chain link

    Being a resource site owner I can tell you that Myspace will not die anytime soon. Myspace was started by a company famous for spyware and e-mail spamming as a marketing experiment and quickly grew into what it is today after being purchased by NewsCorp.

    Tom Anderson didn’t start Myspace and was not even a co-founder per say. He was an employee of the company that started Myspace and won a referral aka spamming contest they held to get members to sign up. He is nothing more then a friendly “guy next door” face they use for public relations now.

  13. Benin Mask on November 9, 2008 at 10:00 pm  Chain link

    looks like you were on to something

    http://widgets.alexa.com/traffic/graph/?r=6m&y=p&z=1&h=300&w=470&c=1&u%5B%5D=myspace.com&x=2008-11-10T01%3A52%3A24.000Z&check=www.alexa.com&signature=RZUMYr%2BQSSAyyNSMOEu1acX8ZJg%3D

  14. nikki on February 22, 2009 at 12:05 pm  Chain link

    why????????!!!!!!!!!!

  15. David Louis Edelman on February 23, 2009 at 9:10 am  Chain link

    why not????????!!!!!!!

  16. TM on April 13, 2009 at 3:07 am  Chain link

    my bands’ web guy is a well paid MySpace employee and we don’y even do MySpace

  17. twitter unfollow on September 4, 2010 at 3:44 pm  Chain link

    I like the high quality of your blog what template are you using?

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