In 2007, the Guardian's Victor Keegan published "Will MySpace ever lose its monopoly?" in which he enumerated the unbridgeable moats and unscalable walls that "Rupert Murdoch's Myspace" had erected around itself, evaluating all the contenders to replace Myspace and finding them wanting.
(Facebook didn't even make the list of promising companies to watch)
As we #deletefacebook, it may seem like a meaningless gesture. Our friends will never jump ship in sufficient number, so, inevitably, we'll be lured back into the strangling embrace of the zuckerpus's tentacles.
But as big and powerful as Facebook is, it's not immortal. Everything ends. Facebook's primary value is in helping you find people to talk with (for example, finding other people with rare diseases), but it makes its living by making the experience of talking with other people as shitty as possible, with "engagement maximization" and invasive, manipulative advertising. It is supremely vulnerable to a competitor that was willing to accept a lower degree of profitability in exchange for a business-model more closely aligned with the value of providing a forum where affinity-based groups can form and organize.
Facebook, meanwhile, will struggle to make such a transition, as doing so would mean enraging its shareholders as its market cap plummeted, and would face mass-scale internal sabotage from the baronets other turf-defending execs inside its buildings whose livelihood depends on the continuation of a Facebook built on surveillance capitalism.
If it were a country, MySpace would be the seventh biggest, ahead of Russia and Bangladesh, though not all users are active. It had 153,339,321 users when I started writing this article and 153,523,640 when I had finished. What does this growth bode for the future? For the first time a like-minded media generation will grow up interacting instantaneously: globalisation personified. Maybe we won't need CVs any more as our lives will be there online.
But will commercialisation kill the culture that spawned MySpace? The $900m (£450m) three-year deal Google did to put its adverts on MySpace is, reportedly, being renegotiated. Upwards. When I visited the site this week I was met by offputting flashing adverts. Logging on I was then greeted with a loud video advert there was no obvious way of turning off. Good job I was not in a library.
That doesn't bother MySpacers and they don't seem bothered by other matters. User-generated content, for instance. MySpace is a huge generator of it, maybe the biggest, but users don't get paid. But why not? Google, the owner of YouTube, the vast site that hosts video clips, is under siege from corporations, doubtless including Murdoch's Fox empire, to get royalty income from those clips. Yet MySpace creams off all the advertising income associated with user content without which MySpace's goldmine would vaporise. The difference is that YouTube's predators are large corporations, whereas consumer power is diffused among over 150m individuals on MySpace. Maybe they should form a virtual trade union.
Will MySpace ever lose its monopoly? [Victor Keegan/The Guardian]