MySpace - Just a Copycat Idea Without Any Technical Competence

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DeWolfe and Anderson came to their social networking juggernaut from the world of porn and spyware. Their greatest asset? Complete ignorance. Not knowing what to fear, the entrepreneurs just dove in. It gave them a great beginning, Angwin says, but became an Achilles heel.

In a recent interview with NPR Julia Angwin, the author of "Stealing MySpace," explained that the founders of MySpace, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, came to the project not as rocket scientists from Silicon Valley, but as experts in pop up ads and scams. They did porn sites and spyware and they perfected these things to a level of evil genius. Their company, eUniverse, was involved in tons of schemes such as:

Right after 9/11 Tom and Chris came up with this cursor of a flag which people can add on their pages. It turned up to be spyware which was tracking your every move and showing you pop-up ads

In their hunt for the next porn and spyware opportunity, they noticed that everyone was talking about the next social media platform while publishing studies on how societies function. Eager to take advantage of the situation, they started milking Friendster's user base. Tom was famous for trolling around the web looking for cute girls. One of the ladies he met was Tila Tequila who he recruited to MySpace. After that, he made it his mission to recruit all the ladies on Friendster to his copycat site, MySpace, which was the same in all respects, except that it was more permissive.

So if Tila Tequila wants to pose wearing no clothes, she kept getting kicked off Friendster but MySpace was like sure! Do what ever you want.

Chris and Tom's complete technical incompetence was their biggest advantage and their worst enemy. They were ignorant of the technical challenge and dove right in:

They were very quick to make changes. When a user wanted a certain feature they threw it out there even thought it totally sucked and kept crashing the system. They didn't care. They didn't waste time with features which were not going to be popular. They basically threw everything out there and the features that proved to have some sort of traction they spent time working to perfect those.

In the end, when they became a big site, it turned against them because they couldn't keep the site up and they couldn't keep up with Facebook on a technical level. Currently they are shedding millions of users every month as they are trying to double down on music and hold on to their musician target market. News Corp. has been trying to sell the site for two months now.

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It has 4 comments.

Gina Dertner (ZURB) says

Pretty interesting read. Had no idea they had such sleezy roots. I guess the initial point of the site was really to make a bunch of cash very quick not to create long term value for people. Check out their interview with Charlie Rose:

Rg Enzon (ZURB) says

Quite true. I noticed that also, that they kept on just adding features here and there, didn't even thought about the consequences etc. This is, I think, is also another reason why Facebook succeeded over them, they ignore the requests of some users to benefit the majority, and which works best for the majority.

Thanks for this one. Very interesting.

Dmitry (ZURB) says

@Gina - Yup, not a lot of people know about the whole story. Thanks for the link to Charlie Rose interview. It's a bit dated but still a great chat. NPR Planet Money blog commented on this interview saying: "Maybe it's just the format but you can see the MySpace guys sweating throughout the last part of the interview".

Dmitry (ZURB) says

@Rg Glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, as the book and podcast notes MySpace added most features they got requests for, this was a vital part of their demise. The site became buggy and they could not technically support it very well.