Given MySpace's primary audience of tweens, describing its rise and fall in high school metaphors--at death's door--seems apt.
The social networking site--now self-labeled a "social entertainment" hub, a subtle reminder of its failure as a "social network"--used to be hot, the place to learn about parties and all things cool. At the peak of its popularity it was like Facebook is today--a cultural phenomenon, a dynamic and engaging alternative to snooty invitation-only sites like Friendster and the suit-and-tie LinkedIn.
Then it got older and so did its audience. Social networking grew up also.
Social Network Morphs Into Social Web
Social networking expanded from junky pages of blinking Flash art to become a fulcrum of media swapping between friends via photos, videos, and links. "Likes" became Facebook Fan Pages. Addictively fun games, such as Scrabulous, thrived on Facebook.
Facebook saw the potential of the social Web that was different than a static social networking site. It dared to irk users, reached out to business, pushed the privacy envelope, and now Facebook "Like" buttons are plastered on billions of Web pages, merchandizing not only companies but Facebook itself.
As Facebook was busy creating the social tools of tomorrow--inking deals with game companies and offering new ways of sharing photos and videos between friends--MySpace appeared to be focusing on holding onto the past.
Kickin' It Old School Online
MySpace floundered under an old paradigm. It seemed more interested in MySpace soundtracks to embed in personal pages and loud MySpace page layouts. It completely missed the very lucrative social gaming bus. Zynga, responsible for FarmVille and predominantly featured on Facebook, is reportedly valued at over half a billion dollars and growing.
The Internet--and especially Facebook--blossomed beyond Times Square-like distractions that MySpace consistently junked its site up with. Social networks put on a tie, picked up a briefcase, and went to work. MySpace just got older; it didn't try hard enough to broaden its appeal to its aging and more discerning audiences.
Will MySpace Ever Learn?
A quick look at the MySpace in its current iteration shows that its programmers still believe the road to success is assaulting audiences with shiny graphics (try hovering your mouse over the MySpace logo), flashy tabs and hollow celebrity gossip. Yuck!
MySpace now seems to be the 30-something guy in the too-new leather jacket, grappling to be cool, buying liquor for underage kids to keep his name alive.
Unfortunately that name--MySpace--is dying quicker than many would like to believe--especially MySpace's employees. It's become a punch line on shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon meaning essentially: You still think MySpace is hip? Boy, are you clueless. The sad story of MySpace might be funny to laugh at, if weren't for the real human tragedy of its struggles.
The News Corp. division that includes MySpace posted a $156 million loss for the quarter ending September 2010, which resulted in 500 MySpace employees--or roughly 47 percent of MySpace's staff--without jobs.
If MySpace fails one more time at reinventing itself, it'll just become that shady-looking guy in the Camaro parked outside Liquor Land with a greasy, desperate smile. The flypaper is getting old MySpace. Time for a new mousetrap.