MySpace & Friendster & New Thinking?

In a recent article entitled Is MySpace.com Really That Popular?, Nate Elliot, a Jupiter Research analyst, says that MySpace has slowing growth because it isis no longer cool.

First, according to this Businessweek article, MySpace is growing at 150k users per day.

And second, Myspace traffic may be plateauing, but it will take time to determine that. This Alexa chart doesn't show any major cause for concern:

While MySpace growth may be slowing--the numbers have yet to bear that claim out--Elliot's reasoning isn't solid (or particularly innovative):

It's the attraction to what's not in the mainstream that often draws kids in, and Elliot points out that the abundance of press and buzz surrounding MySpace has hurt its 'cool' factor.

This doesn't mesh with Dana Boyd's research on Myspace's success (Boyd is a Berkeley PhD candidate studying youth and social media):

Youth are not creating digital publics to scare parents - they are doing so because they need youth space, a place to gather and see and be seen by peers. Publics are critical to the coming-of-age narrative because they provide the framework for building cultural knowledge.

Elliot uses a time-worn cliche about why MySpace will fail--because Friendster did:

Elliot points to the rise and fall of another popular social networking site, Friendster.

Part of what killed Friendster according to Elliot, was its own success. Once everyone knew about it, no one wanted to hang out there.

Proof? No? A supporting rationale, then? No? Not even on your blog? The analysis is not even worth the digital paper it's printed on.

Please indulge some of my own hand-waving about the fall of Friendster and MySpace's success, which I will ground in thinking about customer experience. Here are three:

  1. Back when Friendster was cool, my buddy Dan created a profile for his pet fish. Within a couple of hours, it was axed. Today on MySpace, you can find many Rupert Murdoch profiles, which suggests that MySpace is more concerned with letting their users have some mostly harmless fun than being Correct. Friendster underestimated the extent to which its users wanted a place to--as Boyd writes--"hang out". Myspace provided that; Friendster didn't.
  2. People complain about MySpace's uptime. Use it for awhile, and you'll experience crashes, weird errors, or slooooow page loads. But hit reload, and more often than not, it'll work. Friendster, back in the day, was so unbelievably slow as to be unusable. This is simple: MySpace scaled more quickly, and the site, while not perfect, is good enough. Friendster was too slow in adapting.
  3. Friendster profiles were largely static, templatized, and boring. You'd enter all your fave movies, songs, books, add your BFFs, and then... what? On MySpace, you can embed music, movies, post pictures, change your profile's font, backgrounds, color scheme, add blog posts, etc etc. MySpace profiles are always changing, and the customization is an important key to virtual expression. Says Boyd:
    Profiles are digital bodies, public displays of identity where people can explore impression management. Because the digital world requires people to write themselves into being, profiles provide an opportunity to craft the intended expression through language, imagery and media.

These ideas about MySpace's success compared with Friendster's aren't particularly earth-shattering. Perhaps Umair's excellent post about why the valley is afraid of MySpace sheds some light as to why we generally see a startling lack of insight with regard to MySpace. Whatever the reason, it would be nice to see more thoughtful hypotheses like Boyd's (perhaps even grounded in--gasp--*behavioral research*) about how MySpace has gotten to where it is today.

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Note: Although I work for FOX Interactive, I have no inside information about MySpace's growth, traffic numbers, revenue, etc. As always, these opinions are mine alone.

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About

Hi, I'm Kareem Mayan. I co-founded eduFire, an online video tutoring company.

I've done time at ESPN and FIM.

I advise WorldBlu, helping them build democratic companies.

I moderated a council for Creative Good.

And, I helped bring Barcamp, a technology un-conference, to LA, which is where I live. I am now living and working in cool cities around the world.

More about me.

Opinions stated here are mine alone.

Contact: blog -at- reemer

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