Remember Friends Reunited? Maybe, maybe not. Friendster? Meh. And MySpace? Sure. It’s the zombie apocalypse of social networks, a platform not dead but not quite alive. Every couple of years it switches hands for less money, with its new owners proclaiming a big, long-overdue comeback, or how a final scrape of its long-gone users’ old email addresses will somehow bear fruit.
MySpace is important, not for what it is or was, but for the stories it can tell us. Back in the day, when Limp Bizkit was still cleaning up at festivals, MySpace was the hottest Internet site. Big business clamoured for a seat at the digital table where young people were hanging out. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation paid $580m in 2005, and two years later, it had 300 million registered users and was touted with a value of $12 billion. Facebook, which would ultimately squash the site, was always the place where students and mums and dads would click and look. MySpace was the home of artists and their followers. It was clunky but it was built for music. Musos could upload four tunes and stream them from their homepage, where you’d also find artwork, tour details. You could DM an artist. And it was all free to use. Now, MySpace is a dead zone. Go there. It’s like a disaster film where the goodies engage with a marooned spaceship, where all the crew are dead or missing, and the captain’s log is gone.
So what? The digital world is an evolve-or-die space, true. But there was an extended time in the 2000s when artists couldn’t imagine a world without MySpace. For years, every music industry summit devoted panels to better-living-with-MySpace. Few predicted it would fall off a cliff, and many artists burned precious time and energy with their MySpace account.
Which brings us to Facebook and Snapchat. Facebook, the burly, big guy who no-one can push over in the sandpit, has taken a flogging in recent months. A succession of scandals over the misuse of personal data, fake news and a creepy holocaust denier row (the stink from which might never come out) came back to haunt it
when more than a US$120 billion was wiped from its valuation in a single week. During a recent episode of his HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” John Oliver noted that sum was bigger than the global cheese industry. “Facebook’s stock dropped by the concept of cheese,” he said. It was the social equivalent of a run on a bank.