MySpace founder’s defense of Google+

Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson, the founder and former president of MySpace, has a lot to say in praise of Google+. Essentially, he thinks Google+ avoids falling into the “vs. Facebook” trap, as MySpace did. (For more on how that social media “fight of the decade” turned out, visit this post.)

Anderson wrote this piece for TechCrunch not long after Google+ launched in summer 2011. In it, he asks: “Is ‘social’ in Google’s DNA?” Anderson points out that Google has been built on algorithms, millions of which go into PageRank, the engine that fuels Google searches. But along comes Google+, and suddenly Google must cede some of this computer-control to users. Interestingly, Facebook is far more algorithm-controlled than most users think. Its newsfeed is powered by code that ensures you don’t really see everything your friends post, and they don’t see everything you post. Of course, you can change these settings and take more control, but Facebook is legendary for its opaque user interface. Few people know about “lists” (similar to G+ “circles”) or how to manage their news feeds. Anderson worries that Google will eventually add more algorithms behind the scenes in G+, chipping away at user control.

There are more insights in one of Anderson’s subsequent articles, this one appearing a couple months after the G+ launch. In this article, titled “How Google+ Will Succeed and Why You’ll Use it Whether you Want to or Not,” Anderson makes two key points about Google+ and social networks in general.

First off, Facebook and Twitter both succeeded, in his view, by capturing small markets. It went from one university to the next, then to community colleges, then high schools, then companies such as Apple. These small communities became evangelists for the social network. This follows Boyd’s arguments about the passion of early adopters. There is a trade off here. As a product grows beyond largely unprofitable niche groups, it tends to lose the passion of these early adopters. This may have been true for Facebook, but obviously there were enough communities and social connections there to allow Facebook to become self-sustaining and keep growing.

G+ also is capturing small communities, such as techies, “Facebook fed-ups,” photographers, journalists and certain celebrities. It has become a key platform for media pundits, such as Jim Romenesko, and tech pundits, such as Pete Cashmore of Mashable.

Why does this matter? Because unlike a private-oriented social network (Facebook), a public network like G+ (with its Twitter side) doesn’t require that your friends join for it to be useful and engaging. All it requires are frequent posters or “content creators.”

Anderson’s second key point about G+ is that it doesn’t have to be a destination in the way that Facebook is. G+, like all of Google’s applications, is just always there, in that little black bar at the top of your browser window. You will always see when you have notifications. You may not intend to go there, but G+ is where you are. In a recent G+ Hangout, Josephine Dorado, our Collaboration in Networked Environments professor, depicted this as an emerging “collaborative system” that Google is creating. It’s all there in the cloud: G+, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Groups, etc. Instead of a single destination, you have a range of collaborative tools available wherever you go on the web.

From a purely collaborative standpoint, G+ may already have won, you just don’t know it yet.

Why did MySpace fail? Ask Quora

This roundtable discussion on Quora reflects many of the points brought up in our MySpace History and Introduction post.

First, it is difficult to overstate just how difficult people found customizing their profile pages in MySpace. The platform was founded on the idea that people wanted to mainly create spaces for themselves, thus the site’s name. In retrospect, this emphasis on “me” seems rather curious. Social networks are all about connections between people. As mentioned in the post, “The Architectures of Participation,” networks emerge out of these connections. It also seems that networks cannot be self-sustaining unless these connections are put first and foremost in a social network’s vision.

Second, MySpace was painfully overloaded with advertising. This reflected corporate priorities. Boyd’s “Incantations for Muggles” points out that as companies seek to expand and grow profits, they often lose the passion of their users. Perhaps MySpace needed to focus on building passion among its users before it sought to build profits.

Third, one participant in this roundtable points out that MySpace did a poor job of “shipping product,” meaning the novelty quickly wore off and was not replaced or fed by new experiences, such as games and other features. Facebook does an excellent job of shipping product, keeping the experience fresh. Doruff’s ‘Translocal Event’ underscores the important role of play in social, collaborative networks.

Myspace History & Introduction

Myspace Accepts Ultimate Defeat: Bows Down to Facebook

Myspace, the former “in-demand” social networking site, continues to agonize over its defeat to the superior Facebook by instituting a rebranding campaign that allows the web platform to function primarily as a “social entertainment” resource.  The general concept of the original Myspace basically served as the essential foundation for subsequent social media sites (like Facebook and Twitter); however, it also gave these upcoming platforms the opportunity to improve upon the existing, broken system established by the complicated Myspace format.  Myspace, in a sense, caused its own demise.

To understand Myspace’s dramatic collapse, one must grasp the site’s initial, massive success that began in 2003—lasting until 2008, when the emergence of Facebook changed the face of social media as we know it.  With approximately 110 million registered users in 2008, the $12 billion dollar-worthy website was the leading social networking destination that allowed active users to implement and control their personally designed profile pages, connect with friends, access entertainment multimedia, and more (Web Strategy).  Even with Rupert Murdoch’s $580 million purchase in 2005, the business of Myspace experienced an immense downward spiral due to the inability to target the specific teen demographic that the site specifically aimed to adhere to.  The “freedom” of building your own space—literally—resulted in a unique and demanding socializing tool; however, the complicated nature of the overall page creation and network navigation unintentionally backfired, driving people directly to the arms of the competition: the user-friendly Facebook.  According to CNN, Myspace was sold again in 2011 for $35 million; “far less than the $580 million News Corp. paid for Myspace in 2005” (CNN Money).  Instead of acting as its own social media outlet, Myspace now identifies itself as a “social entertainment” site, featuring music, movies, and television media, and additionally links to Facebook in order to generate greater interest on a perpetually failing networking device.

The following are basic assumptions of why Myspace might have failed over the years:

– Hit its “peak” way too early, furthering hindering its growth with changing technology (general lack of technological innovation as it moved forward in time).

– Targeted younger (teen) demographic; did not appeal to older age groups who prefer an uncomplicated layout.

– Failure to understand modern-day Internet users’ need/want for simple, straightforward setup:

o Layout and design was too complex of a layout with a busy appearance, involving coding for page design (HTML)

o Gave users too much control and customization over the actual design, but not all users are considered “designers;” difficult to grasp entire process lead to loss of overall interest

o Swarmed with advertising and unavoidable spam, even pornography (through friend requests and messaging especially)

o Forced users to search for information instead of making it available to them

o Devoid of monitored stream of updates in a singular location

o No uniform profile

– Username made it less personal, prohibiting networking opportunities; also making it difficult to search potential friends.

– Currently considered a “Social Entertainment Destination,” breaking away from the initial social media identity.

– The major emergence of Facebook caused Myspace to rapidly lose popularity as people showed preference towards the fresh-faced, easy-to-use social media platform. They made the choice to switch and Myspace subsequently fell apart.

Sources:

Owyang, Jeremiah.  “Social Network Stats: Facebook, MySpace, Reunion.”  Web Strategy.  9 Jan. 2008.  Web.  6 Nov. 2011  <http://www.web-

strategist.com/blog/2008/01/09/social-network-stats-facebook-Myspace-reunion-jan-2008/>.

Segall, Laurie.  “News Corp. sells Myspace to Specific Media.”  CNN Money.  29 June 2011.  Web.  3 Nov. 2011. <http://money.cnn.com/2011/06/29/technology/

myspace_layoffs/index.htm?hpt=te_bn2>.