While iLike will soon be integrated into the MySpace experience, there’s no indication thus far that Facebook or other social networks will be barred from using it. Current iLike users will remain “unaffected by the acquisition,” an official announcement promises. “We expect that users will continue to discover and share music through the iLike application on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson responds.
So in the fiercely competitive world of social networking, could the iLike acquisition give MySpace a much-needed boost? Maybe — but I wouldn’t count on it.
Social Network Shift
MySpace is kind of like the Internet Explorer of social networking: It was long considered the de facto choice, the automatic starting point for new users. As it stagnated, though, its one-time underdog competitor innovated and began attracting an increasingly loyal userbase. Soon, its numbers started to slip as the young challenger’s grew — and, before anyone could say “holy freakin’ Friendster,” its stronghold had eroded away.
Just look at the numbers: Last May, MySpace was dominating the dojo with 73.7 million U.S. visits for the month. Facebook had less than half that, only 35.6 million visits. Fast-forward to this May, when Facebook caught up for the first time, catapulting up to 70.278 million visits compared to MySpace’s 70.237 million. That’s no small shift: Facebook grew by 97 percent, while MySpace fell by about 5 percent. As I noted at the time, the trend seems to suggest that in addition to some veteran users likely switching sites, the majority of new social network users are also flocking to Facebook.
MySpace + iLike = ?
So what does acquiring iLike mean for MySpace? In the big picture, it may not really mean much. It’d be shocking if many users were motivated to change their social network allegiance based purely on a piece of music-sharing software — one that, by all indications, will still be available on Facebook (or will perhaps eventually be replaced by some comparable alternative). The typical social network user is focused on the overall experience, not the brand name of the apps associated with the site. And there are enough standalone music-playing and sharing services that I’d question how many people would surf over to MySpace solely to use iLike’s functionality.
MySpace, with its new CEO at the helm, may have other tricks up its sleeves yet; it’s certainly far from out of the social network race. The iLike acquisition alone, however, is likely no major game-changer…no matter how much MySpace may like it to be.