MySpace has been in the news quite a bit in the last 18 months, especially since News Corp acquired it last summer as well as the negative news stories regarding how sex offenders are preying on unknowing teens. For the good and the bad, MySpace has grown into a massive online phenomenon in just a little over 2 years. It buried formerly-hot Friendster and opened up a whole new way for teens to express themselves and experiment with their (online) identities.
According to on-line traffic counter Alexa.com, MySpace ranks as one of the 10 most popular sites on the planet.
Personally, when estimating MySpace as a media trend, it is only a blip in the bigger picture, which is the consumer demand seeking ideal new communities finding more people "like me". Call it the "Like Me Culture", if you like. We are all reaching out to find others that share our interests like never before, covering an amazing global range of possibilities. This is as true from the first Compuserve and NewsServ billboard posting clubs in 1991 as it is today. Only way better and more far-reaching.
MySpace's growth was created due to an unbelievably vast assortment of free tools and access now available to all web users, especially those with broadband access. The Web -- which only 15 years ago was still a text-driven form of interactivity accessed by baud rates of 9600kbs or less (remember that?) -- now is a high-performance graphical universe of unlimited possibility. And it is still trying to take shape. It's the search engines that are helping create that shape. They help us find the webpages we want on the ever-expanding Internet.
Chaos is part of the reason why MySpace works. Most of the personal sites are chockablock and choking with excessive graphics and a huge list of "friends" who add whatever they want to the site through individual messages, links and jpgs or .mov files. It exhausting and so busy looking, it serves as a barrier for on-the-move, don't-waste-my-time adults. Which is why teens love it. Their parents hate it...so that gives teens the "okay" to do things in the relative "open" without risk of being discovered (future employers, they think...who cares, right?)
That strength of chaos and "noise" making it unfriendly for adults and more attractive for teens is also its greatest weakness. Ultimately, if Google, MSN and Yahoo! or MySpace internal search engines can't properly index its webpages, the efforts of each webpage creator will go more and more unnoticed or forgotten. Which means MySpace is vulnerable to new competitive online community services offering a fresh clean slate, especially if they can manage search capabilities while growing.
Facebook is one terrific example continuing to soar, taking a more disciplined approach of managed growth. It launched just about the same time as MySpace but was much more selective in its approval of new members because they had to be registered with schools who approved of the online club. In order to join, you have to be in either high school or college. Which helps keep out the 'rents! It's a way for peers and potential friends to find each other online. Their innovative ways of sharing music playlists and other Top 10 popularity items helps searchers find who and what they want.
Meanwhile, today's reality still shows MySpace as much more dominant right now than any other online community, with some 50 million+ members. That is a massive database. The question is will MySpace be able to keep that leadership position or will it quickly become a junkyard wasteland of dead webpages? Will the charming chaos that makes it quirky and cool burn out its popularity. Is there a limit to the amount of trash we are willing to sort through before giving up?
Considering how disposable this pop culture society is -- especially online, it would not be surprising how quickly MySpace becomes the Internet's fastest cool-to-uncool casuality lesson. Trashy usually doesn't stay cool for very long.
posted by Chris Kennedy @ Sunday, March 26, 2006,