Tales In Tech History: Myspace

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Facebook’s last serious challenger Myspace is still going, although much diminished from its heyday in 2007

Facebook Factor

There is little doubt that 2007 and 2008 was the heyday of Myspace.

Indeed, it consistently beat its main competitor (Facebook) in traffic volumes, as Mark Zuckerberg’s venture back (originally known as thefacebook.com) was mostly aimed at college students.

In 2007 Myspace was valued at $12bn and had well over 100 million accounts. News Corp even considered merging with it Yahoo in 2007.

But the competition with Facebook was starting to take its toll and in April 2008 for the first time Myspace was overtaken by Facebook in the number of unique worldwide visitors.

Despite this Myspace was still able to generated $800m in revenue during its 2008 fiscal year and by June 2009, Myspace employed approximately 1,600 employees.

But the writing was on the wall and the number of Myspace users began to decline steadily.

Changes were made, and in April 2009 then-CEO Chris DeWolfe was replaced by former Facebook COO Owen Van Natta. A restructuring took place in June 2009, that saw the redundancy of more than 400 workers in the United States and another 300 employees overseas.

A number of drastic website redesigns were also carried out, but these proved unpopular with Myspace’s dwindling number of users.

MySpace For Sale

Justin Arrives

By 2011 Myspace was really struggling and News Corp sold it to digital media company Specific Media, and singer/actor Justin Timberlake for a reported amount of just $35m, a far cry from the $580m News Corp had paid six years earlier.

Rupert Murdoch apparently admitted that the Myspace purchase had been a “huge mistake”, but in new hands, there was hope for Myspace.

Specific Media wanted it in order to the access to MySpace’s 34.9 million monthly global visitors for ad targeting. The deal also enabled the company to sell its own ad space. Meanwhile as part of the deal, pop singer Justin Timberlake took an “ownership stake” in MySpace.

Timberlake

Indeed, it was touted at the time that Timberlake would play a major role in developing the creative direction and strategy for the company moving forward. He would be supported by a staff of six in the MySpace offices.

Hanging On

But the turnaround failed to happen. The Facebook juggernaut just continued to grow and grow, and in February 2016 it was announced that Myspace and its parent company had been bought by Time Inc for an undisclosed amount.

Then in May 2016, the data of almost 360 million MySpace accounts was offered on the “Real Deal” dark market website. The leaked data included email addresses, usernames and weakly encrypted passwords.

Another security concern emerged in July this year when a security researcher revealed that anyone’s old Myspace account could be easily accessed just by knowing a few basic pieces of personal information.

All hackers needed to know the target user’s full name, username and date of birth, all information that is often freely available from other social networks.

Yet Myspace is still hanging on.

It apparently still witnesses 50.6 million unique monthly visitors and has a pool of nearly 1 billion active and inactive registered users (as of 2015).

Whether this social networking pioneer will go the way of Friends Reunited remains to be seen.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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