Although MySpace is a force to be reckoned on the web that dwarfs other social networks by comparison (see the graph below), I’m beginning to wonder if they are indeed invincible.
I was intrigued when I saw the Google Zeitgeist for 2006. It clearly shows Bebo, another SNS that is big in the UK, ahead of MySpace for top searches. Although you could argue that it is because MySpace is so well known, it also shows some latent demand for a better alternative.
MySpace is in many ways what GeoCities originally was in the mid 90s. People who had no background in the web or programming were erecting sites on a variety of topics. Some were like the blogs we see nowadays and others were shrines for celebrities, girlfriends, and pets. MySpace takes us back to the 90s (even interface wise) but adds networking capability. The fact that you can find almost anybody on MySpace gives it an advantage over others. If you read the Wikipedia entry on MySpace, there is controversy that it’s roots may have been in concerted spam campaigns that gave the site it’s initial jumpstart. Although this is in dispute, MySpace has origins in both funding and staff from Intermix Media that some claim is a spam marketing company (they had a lawsuit brought against them for allegations of illegally installing spyware in user computers).
User’s penchant for the freely customizable profile page and ability to add music and video through flash players is cited as a strength of MySpace but it also results in a usability and security nightmare that many web professionals scorn.
Despite MySpace’s dominant presence on the web and a number of artists successfully launching a music career from their profile page, in terms of monetization, MySpace pales in comparison to other services a fraction of their size. The quality of ad exposure on MySpace is abysmal. Putting adwords on MySpace is a quick way to rack up a large bill for low quality, untargeted traffic. Rival services such as Hi5 and Bebo are turning a profit without as many spamish ads for free smileys and the like.
I wonder if MySpaces aura of invincibility in fact is propped up by it’s inflated standing among the teen to mid-twenties crowd and more an indication for a truly well executed solution for online networking to come along.