MySpace was once the market leader in social networking and claimed to have 100 million users in its prime.  Today it was sold by Rupert Murdoch‘s news conglomerate News Corporation for $35M, a 94% loss from the $580M it paid for MySpace in 2005.  In other words, News Corp managed to lose over half a billion dollars in a little over 5 years, on one subsidiary holding.  How does one go from being the number one/two social networking site to nearly worthless in 5 years?

MySpace’s biggest downfall was never “growing-up.” The adult world saw the site as a play-place for adolescents; a place of fanciful pseudonyms and adolescent pranks, fueled by juvenile exuberance. It was a virtual clubhouse where you could hang out with your friends and your parents had no idea what was going on.  What News Corp failed to realize is that those adolescents were going to grow up.  As those teens became young adults, MySpace became their virtual Buzz Lightyear, and was easily discarded. Teenagers I taught only a few years ago jokingly comment on Facebook about their time-capsule-esque visits to MySpace after years of not logging in.  Once people stop visiting, who wants to hang out in a clubhouse with no members? Where are you going to find advertisers to pay for ads no one is looking at?

Did the iPhone kill MySpace?  The mobile platform was never adopted by MySpace and many of those growing-up MySpace users were handed Blackberries and bought iPhones once they joined the working world.  MySpace’s wild-west do-as-you-please approach to user’s personal pages was not only my biggest peeve but also did not allow for mobile integration.  There was no easy way to display the garish-colors, scrolling themes, and auto-playing soundtracks on a smartphone App or browser. From a personal standpoint I would estimate that 60% of my Internet usage is consumed through my iPhone and 90% of my social networking interaction is done on my mobile device.  With that type of usage pattern emerging a site that did not, or could not support mobile users was doomed to obsolescence.

Security issues plagued MySpace throughout it’s rise to prominence.  When you allow your users to do what ever they want, developing security to protect them and their data becomes a near impossibility.  Again, MySpace was hobbled it’s lack of uniformity.  The constant barrage of security breaches and flaws drove away the maturing, job-having, blackberry-carrying MySpace users and kept security conscious adults from joining the fray.  Allowing non-users access to pages was huge mistake in the security policy at MySpace.  Because MySpace allowed “lurking” users could see what their friends were doing without setting up accounts and becoming involved in the community.  If you got an email inviting you to join friends on MySpace, you could go and view their pages and see what was going on without setting up an account of your own.  This also allowed employers and potential employers to gather dirt and led to a barrage of negative media and security warnings, further eroding new account numbers and unique visits that drive advertiser revenue.

Facebook and Twitter have emerged as the leaders in social-networking but just Friendster and MySpace before them, they could also go the way of Buzz and Woody and be discarded.  The one thing we should learn from the death of MySpace is that Sean Parker in ‘The Social Network’ was right when he said “TheFacebook is cool. That’s what it’s got going for it.”;  and as soon as Facebook or Twitter cease to be ‘cool’ another site will take over.

Leave me a comment below about your experiences with MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. What drives your habits?