Myspace.com was born in 2003, after a 10-day gestation period in the Los Angeles offices of Internet marketing firm eUniverse. Employees had observed the popularity of early networking sites such as Friendster, and set out to design a better version. Luckily, the support of eUniverse meant that early incarnations of Myspace didn’t suffer from the usual startup growing pains stemming from inexperienced employees, funding problems or a lack of server capacity.
Myspace’s first CEO, Chris DeWolfe, suggested that users be charged for membership, but that idea was shot down by eUniverse’s founder and CEO, Brad Greenspan, who saw more growth potential in unrestricted membership. The site became an effective social networking tool for youth, and users liked the ability to personalize the shape and colour of their profile.
In July of 2005, eUniverse was swallowed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for US$580 million. By 2006, Myspace had about 35 million unique monthly visitors from the U.S. alone, and began to expand internationally. Britain and Australia got a version of Myspace that year, and non-English-speaking countries such as France, Germany and India soon followed.
The Myspace Music section of the site (which allowed musicians to upload MP3s of their songs) was launched in 2005 and quickly became Myspace’s killer app, helping catalyze a resurgence in independent music. It was so popular that an official record label, Myspace Records, was introduced soon after. The site reached its peak in popularity in 2008 with close to 80 million unique monthly visitors from the U.S., and ads for the site were booked months in advance. Big name advertisers like McDonald’s, Sony and Toyota all shelled out for space on the pages, and when News Corp. sought a merger with Yahoo in 2007, the site was valued at $12 billion.
But while Myspace’s rise was swift, its decline was even more precipitous. Facebook, which was originally available only to post-secondary students in colleges or universities, had a more elite or at least upmarket appeal, in contrast with the tacky banners and bad graphic design that littered Myspace. Facebook overtook Myspace in 2008, and its lead continued to widen as more Myspace users flocked to Facebook’s clean, simple pages and its increasingly appealing games and social apps.
Myspace tried numerous redesigns to get back in the game, to little avail, and in June of 2009 Myspace cut its staff by about 30%, to around 1,000 employees. Big advertisers like Pepsi and Ford began to back away, and in a final act of desperation, in October of 2010, the site introduced a new logo, “My ____,” implying the site could be whatever users wanted it to be.
It failed. In January of 2011, News Corp. announced another cut to Myspace staff of 47%, or about 500 employees. Between January and February of 2011, Myspace lost 10 million users— from 73 million to 63 million, and traffic numbers in the U.S. indicate that users are dropping off fast—back down to 35 million views in February.
The company confirmed early this year that the rumours were true: Myspace was courting potential offers of a “sale, a merger and a spinout.” Whether any investor will pay the deflated $50 million to $200 million for the floundering site remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: Myspace was right to ditch its slogan in 2009. It is no longer “a place for friends.” Like its new logo, it’s just empty space on the web.