The Rise and Fall of MySpace
February 23, 2010 — by Per Christensson
I cancelled my MySpace account today. It was just a formality, considering I hadn't logged into MySpace in over a year and a half. When I logged in earlier today, I viewed a few of my friends' profiles and noticed many of them hadn't used MySpace for over a year as well. Several of my friends had already deleted their accounts.
I believe that MySpace is largest squandered opportunity in the history of the Internet. It was the first major social networking website to gain mass traction and had more potential than any non-search engine website before it. While MySpace was originally designed for musicians and bands, as the site rapidly grew, the creators wisely opened the website to the masses. People began creating personal profiles, sharing photos, and reconnecting with friends they hadn't seen for years. It was the perfect online meeting place and seemed to have an unbeatable recipe for success.
I remember when I first starting using MySpace back in 2005. I thought it was the coolest idea and I enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. However, I also remember thinking the user interface was surprisingly poorly designed. The only way you could customize your profile was to use a third-party MySpace theme creator tool. In order to change your theme, you would have to find a website that offered a theme you liked, copy the CSS code from the theme, then paste it back into one of the "Personal Information" fields in MySpace. This ridiculous process not only created a poor user experience, it fostered major inconsistencies between profile pages and made many profiles painfully difficult to read. For example, pink text on an orange background is a bit hard on the eyes.
In 2006, I remember reading an article in MySpace's online help section about how users can customize their profiles by using a third-party theme creator tool. I was shocked. What began as a MySpace hack had become the official way to customize profiles. Why in the world did MySpace not create their own profile editor and get rid of these hideous themes that so many people were using? If I could create a MySpace Profile Editor, then I'm sure the MySpace developers could have created something far better. As of today, MySpace has still not fixed this problem.
Besides the crazy custom profiles, the rest of the MySpace interface is also poorly designed. The navigation is not intuitive, the color scheme is tacky, and the ads are distracting. Instead of tastefully placing ads within the content of each page, MySpace just plasters a leaderboard at the top of each page, which often conflicts with the layout of custom pages. Internal pages contain flashing ads in nearly every possible location, which makes it hard to find what you are looking for.
To summarize, MySpace is a disaster. In the five years that News Corp has owned the website, the management has not made any major changes to the site design. Not surprisingly, MySpace's traffic has steadily declined in the past several years as users have switched to the more user-friendly Facebook. MySpace, which used to be ranked in the top three websites of the entire Web has now fallen to 17the place and I expect it will continue to fall. Meanwhile, Facebook has risen from relative obscurity to the number two position, right behind Google. So goodbye MySpace. It's been a good run, but not nearly as good as it could have been.
Look for the moral of this story in my next update.