What happened to MySpace?
How did it go from being the Goliath of social networking to a crumbling entity increasingly being seen as irrelevant by users, companies and advertisers?
A BusinessWeek feature story suggests MySpace’s demise was fuelled by a toxic brew of arrogance, hubris, technology issues, its acquisition by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., and growing competition.
Whatever the reason, MySpace has gone from being top of the social heap to an after-thought. And as BusinessWeek notes, MySpace’s value has crumbled even though the value (private valuations and IPOs) of social media companies is soaring as more people climb on the bandwagon and more advertising dollars flow into the marketplace.
Perhaps the biggest lesson other social networks can learn from MySpace’s demise is that confidence and complacency can be a dangerous combination. It may be difficult to remember but MySpace quickly and easily tossed aside Friendster and Tribe.Net as the leading social network. MySpace’s growth was astounding, which prompted Murdoch to make the $580-million deal in 2005.
Another problem that plagued MySpace was its usability. It went from flashy and compelling to busy and cluttered. Meanwhile, Facebook emerged with a cleaner, more attractive option with user-friendly features. Twitter also captured social media users who wanted a different kind of experience, even it meant one with no-frills.
While it’s difficult to fathom Facebook or Twitter losing their appeal, it is also important to remember that few brands have staying power. At some point, another product or service comes along that is shinier, sexier, more user-friendly or better.
As Facebook continues its ambitious mandate to become all things to all people and make its social graph ubiquitous across the Web, it could develop chinks in the armour that new services could take advantage of by focusing on a particular niche. So far, no one has really emerged as a viable rival but nothing is impossible.
In some respects, Twitter may be more vulnerable because it is a service with few features and a business model that is still in progress. Having 200 million users provides Twitter with clout but it would be interesting to see a new micro-blogging service appear on the scene that offers the same functionality as Twitter but with better features.
This, of course, is just speculation but the point is nothing is immune to competitive threats or a changing landscape. MySpace’s erosion shows that one day you can be king of the world, the next you’re standing outside the castle wondering what happened.