Image for MySpace – A Tragedy of Ambition

MySpace – A Tragedy of Ambition

Written by Michael Carr on January 24, 2011

Last week MySpace announced they were cutting back half their staff across the board, which also meant the end of MySpace Australia. For many people these came as a massive surprise but to others it was anything but. Surprise or no, how does one of the most successful web phenomena in the history of the internet go from towering tall to falling flat in less than three years?

There are a million small reason’s why MySpace has lost so much traffic. Other sites like Facebook and Twitter proving to be more popular for social networking, sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp coming along and taking away MySpace’s crown as the patron saint of independent musicians, the sites own clunky layout, not to mention how the ability to customise your own page led to so many gaudy browser crashing profile’s are all part of why MySpace has lost so much business, but really the key issue was that the company was too successful and in turn overconfident.

Writing for Pedestrian in his article The Death Of Myspace – A Former Employee Looks Back, former Social Media Marketing Manager for Myspace Australia Alex Wain points out that “for all the talk of the arrogance of upper management, the greed of Fox (and it’s insistence of plastering every page with ads) through to the utter lack of vision by the key stakeholders – the real reason Facebook won, wasn’t because Myspace made errors, it was because it didn’t feel the need to adapt.” Like so many figures throughout history, MySpace’s inability to see it’s own flaws and weaknesses was in the end the company’s final undoing, but looking at the position they were in it’s easy to see why they would make such a mistake.

With MySpace having not only a wider range of content than it’s competitors, offering music and videos, but also the power of the FOX media empire and $900 million in cash from Google behind them, not to mention four times as many users as Facebook, it is pretty amazing the company wasn’t able to blast Mark Zuckerburg out of the water. Their success though was another key part of the problem.

When MySpace was first hatched, it was never designed to have to deal with 110 million users. Despite this fact, after breaking into the mainstream the company then decided to try and bring in even more users, MySpace becoming some mutant hybrid music site/video channel/blogging platform/whatever else you could possible conceive. While the idea of a massive umbrella site sound good the reality was a site full of bells and whistles, none of them particularly well designed or held together with any continuity of theme or aesthetic.

MySpace is very much the Macbeth to Facebook’s Macduff, whereby because of an overarching ambition, one was defeated by a foe one never considered a threat. Also, if you’ve seen The Social Network it is easy to believe that Zuckerburg was ‘not of woman born.’

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