MySpace: That Great Club Everyone Used To Go To

from the what-will-open-in-its-space? dept

With the news that MySpace is laying off a big chunk of staff and trying to refocus and start to win back some buzz from Facebook and Twitter, our own Derek Kerton made a useful observation that social networks appear to be similar to nightclubs: "Launch, get hot, go bust in 2-3 years, and then another sets up in the same place." Indeed. How quickly people forget. In the 90s, you could argue that GeoCities and SixDegrees were the "social networks" everyone used. And then there was Friendster which begat MySpace which begat Facebook which begat Twitter.

So, the question is... is this inevitable? Should we consider social networks the equivalent of a hip night club with a clear and inherent half-life of "coolness" before it certainly goes bust only to be replaced by something else? If so, what are the signs of trouble? When big media takes over? When Hollywood stars sign up? When your parents sign up? If not, what's the difference? Who can break the cycle?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    G. Steve Arnold, Jun 18th, 2009 @ 11:54pm

    Yes, it's exactly like nightclubs, as I have been saying since 1989.

    Harumph.... You young punk sissies have it so tough.... Twitter, Facebook and Myspace at least let you the ban the sumbitches when they spam you with porn invites.

    When *I* was your age, I had to wade through fourteen-hundred lines of an eight-layer-deep-quoted USENet alt.globalism flamewar between three egotistic academics uphill, both ways, in the snow to get to the funny comment about dolphins and artificial lubricants, all at a **screaming** 1200bps.

    IRC was exactly the same with a slightly faster response time, a significantly shorter attention span and with the added fun of being unexpectedly banned from the #dolphinlubricants channel by said egotistic academics in a hostile auto-bot channel flood takeover.

    Then there were Compuserve forums & AOL chat rooms - same thing, but even dumber, if you can believe it.

    Then, we had personalized home page guest books, Myspace and Facebook, which at least have the advantage of making the bastards come to you where you can force them to look at your retarded spinny animated GIF unicorn while they listen to a looped midi-wavetracker of "Eye of the Tiger".

    *sniff*... Aw great, now you done gone made me all sentimental. Now I'm going to have to ZModem a couple-a megs of 320x200x256 Cindy Crawford GIFs from my shell account at the university mainframe.

    ...stupid kermit... I should have just walked away...

    I WANT MY EARLY 20's BACK!

     

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    Brock Phillimore (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:13am

    I think the “Coolness” is only a small factor of something more important. Innovate or die! The warning sign is stagnation.

    With each of the social networks that fell out of grace, someone took a look at what they are doing and came out with a better way of doing it. If top one had continued to innovate and improve faster than the new start ups they would of stayed on top.

    For example look at Google. They weren't the first search engine. They came up with a better way of organizing search results and rose to the top. If they'd stopped innovating when they hit the top, someone else would have came up with something better and beaten them. But Google has continued to innovate and improve fast than any new upstart has even come close to so far.

    If you don't see constant worthwhile improvements coming from a social networking site, then they are going to be out innovated by someone new.

     

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  3.  
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    Mark Runsvold, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 1:21am

    I think that's exactly right, Brock. Myspace has had a horrible interface since its inception and has never done anything to fix that. Facebook is constantly tweaking its UI and features. Even when the changes annoy its users, it manages to keep people talking about Facebook. The people behind the site seem, like the people behind Apple and Google, to really "get it."

    I think the nightclub analogy is a little bit off overall, but is apt in at least one regard: the social networks that have nothing to offer but novelty and cachet die a swift death. I think a new nightclub in a desirable part of town is much more likely to enjoy sustained success than is new a social network, due simply to issues of scarcity.

     

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  4.  
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    Eric, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 3:12am

    Game, set, match

    G. Steve Arnold, brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

    While your comment has pretty much nothing to do with the question of social networks being equivalent to hot night clubs; it took me back to an earlier, more simple period of the internet, in ways that most people could never do.

    Bravo, bravo.

     

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    Jake B, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 4:43am

    Nope it has more to do with commercialization

    The minute companies are allowed in and few people join them and start getting crap then everyone can't stand the networks. It's always about the commercialization of the space. Facebook is going that route as more and more companies are using it to get their message out, ie advertisements. And Facebook, with it's use of quizzes, allows companies to generate to get at personal info and generate more private data about a person's likes and dislikes.

    Twitter is becoming more worthless with more and more people scouring the land to get more friends to be popular. News orgs are using both so that you can feel more apart of the news? That one I still don't get. The more they clog it up the less likely others are to join.

    When the new great thing comes out, those people fed it up with the last great thing will join, when it reaches enough people it will then become commercialized with all those companies wanting to get their hands the data. Because isn't that what all these networks really are, a centralized place for data on potential consumers? It may start out as benign and a way to keep friends and families updated. But it becomes a goldmine of data. Why else could these sites become so financially viable if their giving away more of the functionality?

     

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  6.  
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    Liz, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 4:56am

    Actually, G. Steve Arnold has a point. The Internet didn't really boom until AOL started it's flat rate payment plan. You no longer had to watch your modem use with a kitchen timer while you trolled newsgroups and pirated games for the Amiga.

    So AOL had their flat rate. A lot of content, chat, message boards, communities, and everything else a new 'net user could want in a convenient location. Accessible with a simple keyword. Unfortunately for G. Steve. Dolphin-Lube was banned by AOL's Terms of Service until 1998.

    But AOL stagnated. Not just as an ISP, but as a social medium. GeoCities came up with their Neighborhoods and everyone had to have their own home page! Then Yahoo took over GeoCities, added in phony bandwidth caps and popular pages were no longer accessible.

    Which then led to Live Journal and it's legion of whiny teens. As LJ stagnated, the current trend on Social Networks arrived.

     

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  7.  
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    Bob Weiss, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 5:15am

    The Target Demographic Shifts

    MySpace may be struggling because they have failed to stay relevant with their user group. The users who thought it was "cool" have now grown up, and are desperately trying to take down the drunken orgy pictures that are keeping them from getting a better job. Younger users who might be coming in at the bottom see Facebook as being a site for "old people" in their twenties(!), and are looking for an online continent of their own.
    Facebook may have done a better job of moving along with their aging target demographic.
    Personally, I prefer LinkedIn, the cute "send me a drink" and "poke me" crap on Facebook is just a little too cloying.

     

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  8.  
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    Audience, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 5:26am

    Wisdom in the Comments

    I think the various comments are hitting on a number of valid points here. Collecting them and building on them would be a valuable project for any social network's business plan.

    I particularly agree that constant innovation and a strong sense of audience are vital. Myspace should obviously overhaul their UI, but first they need to make a choice: be the teen scene or be the artist scene. And then revise the UI accordingly.

     

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  9.  
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    TAP, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 5:27am

    I don't think it just has to do with the coolness of the social networking site, but more its inherent usefulness. For all its pizazz, myspace is essentially useless. It's slow, hard to navigate and not useful for real networking, giving it the feel of being overrun by 12 year olds saying theyr 18 and 40 year olds befriending the former.

    Facebook, however, is useful. It's sleek, moves faster than myspace, and works well as designed. it errors out less on login, and is useful for connecting and networking with friends or family or whoever.

     

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  10.  
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    seamonkey420 (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 5:41am

    Re: Wisdom in the Comments

    i agree w/the prev posters (and enjoyed the post by G. Steve, good memories)

    myspace's problems (imo) have been its super crapphy UI, horrible ad placements, and of course figuring out its own identity. is it artists or a teen scene like you said?

    also, system stability issues with their blog system made me say goodbye to myspace (which is better now but after you've written a 2 page blog post and then have it timeout w/o any saving options, yea you move to a different site after that kind of crap)

     

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  11.  
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    scarr, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 5:54am

    Re: Nope it has more to do with commercialization

    "It's always about the commercialization of the space."

    That would be true, but only if they can force the commercialization on you. I don't know exactly what Facebook does differently than MySpace, but I don't get spam requests on it, so companies being on there doesn't bother me.

    Re: Twitter, "The more they clog it up the less likely others are to join."

    That comment entirely misses the point of Twitter: subscription. You sign up to receive the content you want, and you'll receive _nothing_ else. It doesn't matter how many people/companies/spambots are on it, I only see tweets from the couple dozen people I'm interested in hearing from. (I came to this article via a Techdirt tweet, for example.) It's a brilliant model that avoids that major pitfall of many other services. Unless they change the way it works, it's immune to the effects of commercialization.

     

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  12.  
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    scarr, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 6:04am

    Re: The Target Demographic Shifts

    Bob hits the key factor in all of this discussion: the crowd.

    Sometimes, kids just want somewhere of their own to hang out. If they don't feel a site will be "theirs", they'll go somewhere else.

    If younger kids feel like a site is cool and interesting though, they'll join it with their friends. What makes something "cool" is always shifting, so a social networking site needs to evolve with that to survive. Adaptation is possible, but few companies manage to do it well. MySpace hasn't. Facebook might (and at least they're trying).

    If kids feel like it's a place only "old people" hang out at (or, if "old people" think of something as a "kids' site", which happens more frequently than you think), then the site won't continue to attract people. That leaves it to die, or remain the haunt of the "colorful" regulars who remember the "club" in its heyday.

     

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  13.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 6:37am

    Re:

    The most important factor is WHO is on the network. It will be very difficult for any new site to beat Facebook because grandmas are on Facebook. It takes a lot of work to put up pictures, etc. so don't expect anyone but the technophiles to switch sites quickly. It will take a critical mass of switchers to make the new site popular.

     

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  14.  
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    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 6:50am

    The next new thing

    I've been online since 1993 and have seen the transition from one form of social networking to another. The very fact that a new site can become popular quickly means that another one will come along to replace it.

    From my experience, when each site or form of communication becomes overrun with spam, that's when people are ready to move on. And each time a new site tries to become a mass medium (which they all seem to want to do to show growth and to attract advertisers), that's when the site jumps the shark.

    MySpace still has value as a music site. It offers a one-page format that allows bands to put up what they need without the layers, it's a central site where you can find just about any band, and it offers a player that allows fans to put together a fairly diverse playlist.

    I've never found it a particularly good networking site. Facebook is better for that, though the new format emphasizing status updates makes it so Twitter-like that people might as well use Twitter.

    Until another site offers what MySpace offers in terms of music visibility, it will maintain its value there. In terms of social networking, it was never that good.

     

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  15.  
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    garyh, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 6:52am

    The Next Social Network

    Opera, the browser, has just announced a new functionality, named UNITE. Thru Opera, users can link computers peer to peer, without any server function. The browser becomes the server. User can setup their own social networks and provide access to friends or business associates. Could this evolve into custom social networks?

     

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  16.  
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    ILoveYouMan, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 6:59am

    Re: Yes, it's exactly like nightclubs, as I have been saying since 1989.

    Awesome. I miss the BBS where I could chat about the soon to be released Duke Nukem...and my Zoom 14.4Kbps modem, oh the sweets sounds it made, sniff sniff...

     

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  17.  
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    Parker, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 7:14am

    What happened to Techdirt?

    Biting commentary and great insight into copyright law and technology for most of the week, and today Masnick busts out a comparison of social networks to night clubs?

    It must be casual Friday at the Floor 64 offices :)

     

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  18.  
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    Phoenix, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 7:30am

    Re: The Next Social Network

    I do NOT want a P2P Internet. Sharing things is too painful because you're always having to move stuff across the congested uplinks. Better to keep as much stuff as possible in the cloud. I prefer media file transfer times calculated in single digit seconds to those calculated in minutes. For those worried about security associated with storing things in the cloud, that is a much easier problem to solve than significantly increasing global uplink speeds.

    Also, a P2P Internet becomes more of a machine-dependent Internet. No thanks. I do not like green eggs and ham.

     

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  19.  
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    Phoenix, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Social Networks are based on disposable designs

    So far, all of the major social networks that I'm aware of - including MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter - are all based on what I refer to as 'disposable designs'. By this, I mean that they are basically single-purpose applications that are very difficult to evolve or expand into ecosystems. No thought or focus is given to platform. If I have a unique idea that might be the next big thing for social networking, can I build on top of facebook, MySpace, or Twitter? No, I can't, so I'll go off and create a competing (versus value-add) solution.

    Browsers are examples of applications with platform capabilities. Web Services are enabled by the platform capabilities of browsers. Social Networks will become more stable and enjoy longer half-lives when they start to implement features as platform components. Facebook connect is one early example of this.

     

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  20.  
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    Phoenix, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 8:07am

    MySpace has gone low-rent

    In my opinion, the root of MySpace's decline is a serious lack of design control and quality standards.

    I question whether any new s/w gets tested before it is pushed out to the network. Also, I'm convinced that MySpace hasn't figured out the role of a network engineer yet. If I had a dollar for every MySpace page load that has timed out, I suspect I'd be able to bail out the auto industry myself.

    MySpace seems to have become a haven for kids and high-school grads who are struggling to grow up. You know, girls who think that red lettering on a noisy pink background looks good and is readable, and guys who think that shirtless profile pics are cool. An interesting challenge for advertising demographics, I'm sure.

     

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  21.  
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    Michael, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 10:46am

    Re: Re:

    You missed his point. It isn't because grandma is on Facebook, it's because Facebook isn't giving any solid reason for people looking for new, innovative ways to make their online experience more convenient, to stay. When those people leave, it drives down the popularity of the site overall, eventually leading to its collapse, and then only the grandmas are left.

    Grandmas on Facebook are a sign that the site has hit critical mass and the developers really need to keep an eye out for ways to improve the experience, otherwise they risk eventual obscurity.

    People moved away from MySpace to Facebook because Facebook allowed anybody to join, eventually. The applications on Facebook were probably a decent idea to attract people, but they aren't going to keep people. MySpace didn't offer that, and the experience ended up becoming so terrifyingly awful that it was beyond usefulness and just plain annoying. Facebook offered a cleaner alternative that was somewhat customizable and worked usually pretty well. However, that's not innovative, that's just being an alternative.

    Google is innovative. If Google Wave works as planned, that may very well be the "end all, be all" of social networking, and others will strive to be that. Considering that Gmail is everywhere now, and Google has convinced many to use it as their sole source for email, Google has a definite edge up on the competition when Wave is introduced. Facebook is trying, however, by being the one-stop login for many popular websites now.

    That's cool, but they're going to need to be more if they're going to keep people around for long. They're going to have to be a one-stop login for everything if they're going to compete in the future. Wave will be that.

     

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  22.  
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    Lippy, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:03am

    MySpace has a very bad user interface, there is a ton of spam, and allows very little user interaction among friends besides posting on a wall. I think the more interactive an application is, the more popular it will be for social networking. Facebook has become very popular in businesses too, especially with the option to categorize your friends, allowing different groups different "rights" to your profile.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Mark this down. Facebook, Twitter (you can't have twitter without twits!), and all those other social sites will go the way of myspace, geocities, and all those other things that have come before them. It is the proof that in the end, most of them are NOT signficant, except perhaps in the moment.

     

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  24.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 19th, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Re: What happened to Techdirt?

    Biting commentary and great insight into copyright law and technology for most of the week, and today Masnick busts out a comparison of social networks to night clubs?

    Ha! Sorry to disappoint, Parker. I just found it to be an interesting question and a trend. And I'm interested in understanding trends in the tech/business world.

     

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  25.  
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    Gene Cavanaugh, Jun 19th, 2009 @ 1:09pm

    Will social sites survive?

    For some reason (actually, I sorta understand the reason) people tend to make a big thing of trivia, and ignore the more important things.
    Social sites that eventually learn to do something really useful will survive, the "cool" ones will implode.
    So, if, as an example, Twitter had some way of letting you access (real time) road conditions, transit info, etc., it would not be very "cool", but it would have real lasting power. So long as it is just for impressing friends, it will be like movie stars or movies; important now, but easily forgotten with time.

     

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  26.  
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    Overcast (profile), Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Re: Game, set, match

    Yes, it was more fun then. But isn't that the way of things? They are fun into corporations and government start to get involved - then they start to suck.

     

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  27.  
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    Vae Victis, Jun 22nd, 2009 @ 3:53pm

    I'm sure some social networking nerd is brewing up the next big phase of another trendy social network website. It might be call "realtime3DVideoBlogFaceSpace" or something of that nature. Who knows! All I have to say is the trend will never end. Young people have to keep up with the "Joneses" thus continuing the legacy of social networking.

     

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