November 19, 2010
The week MySpace lost its will to live
This week we gather to mourn the loss of a friend. Well, more than a friend, at one point, it was “A Place For Friends.” I’m speaking of MySpace, which tragically took its own life a few days ago, gutting the site and removing the last vestiges of functionality from what had once been a vibrant, revolutionary cultural force.
Visiting MySpace had become not unlike making visits to a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s. A series of debilitating redesigns had made the poor thing less and less like the website that we knew and loved, and more like a soulless husk, just waiting to die.
We knew it was inevitable on that fateful day back in 2005 when Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp paid over half a billion dollars for what was then then the rising star of the internet and pop culture. Taken out of the hands of the people who created the site, it was handed over to a succession of corporate stooges, each one with less of an idea of just exactly what MySpace was supposed to be.
You can’t blame the founders for taking the money and running, but it’s a shame to see the website that made social networking viable simply give up and quit trying.
I started a MySpace page in 2006 to promote Radio Free Charleston. It was great. I had the freedom to design my own page, and almost every band that was playing live shows had a page I could link to. Then, a couple of months after I joined, the first redesign happened.
It was a classic example of corporate meddling–going to great lengths to “fix” what wasn’t broken. I’m not saying MySpace didn’t have its problems. It’s code was a haven for nasty computer viruses, and most people, when left to design their own web pages, prove why the world needs professional designers.
But they didn’t address those problems. They kept changing the things that worked.
Which was why Facebook was able to easily overtake them in 2008, and is now the dominant social networking site in the world, and MySpace is, as Saturday Night Live called it, “The internet’s abandoned amusement park.”
Earlier this month they made a major redesign of the site. They even changed the logo. The folks in charge, realizing that uncle Rupert is ready to dump them at a loss amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars, got pre-emptively defensive, writing that they “poured their hearts and souls” into the redesign, and that if you don’t give it a chance you’re probably a baby-eating Nazi nun-burner.
Or words to that effect.
Note to News Corp: Try to hire people with a higher quality of heart and soul. These guys sorta suck.
The new MySpace, or as they call themselves now “My______,” is atrocious. The home page interface looks like it was designed by News Corp’s top employee, Homer Simpson. Everything good about the site has been diminished or removed.
Functionality is gone. I can’t update the Radio Free Charleston profile page, or the RFC TV Archives page without “upgrading” to MySpace 3.0, which makes all the profile pages use the same bland template.
Here’s a list of changes MySpace has made:
You can no longer embed videos from other services on your profile page or in your blogs.
If you upload a video, you will not get an embed code to put it anywhere else. You can write your own HTML code, but it may not work.
Your top friends are no longer on your home page. Rearranging them is currently not an option.
You can no longer control what you see in your “stream.” The “stream” is how MySpace attempted to mimic Facebook last year. It basically feeds you every detail about every one of your MySpace friends that you don’t really care to know.
Posting bulletins is nearly impossible.
You can no longer customize your home page. Everything you need to have access to in order to change your profile is jammed down in one corner of the screen.
To see your messages or check other functions, which used to be found easily on a simple navigation bar, you now have to use a clunky, badly-coded drop-down menu.
Rather than having easy access to the things you would want on your dashboard, the prime spots are given over to “Trending Topics” and “Curator Picks” along with the unwieldy “stream.”
“Curators” are special friends you’re supposed to follow on MySpace who will guide you to all the cool stuff they’re being paid to pretend they found organically. It’s how MySpace can get one step closer to Scientology.
You are now bombarded with recommendations, because they are desperate to find a way to make money with the site. (When you combine the purchase price with the amount of money MySpace is losing, it’s become a billion-dollar boondoggle for news Corp.)
Did I mention that the home page is hideous and nearly impossible to use?
That’s just the changes I noticed before I fled the page in disgust. This is a sterling example of how NOT to redesign a website.
It’s gotten to the point where I can’t see much point in trying to update the RFC pages. I won’t bother deleting them, but I have a feeling I’d better move the archives over to Vimeo.
At this point MySpace is so damaged that it might not survive. The best thing that could happen would be if News Corp sold it back to one of the founders (assuming one of them is interested) for pennies on the dollar, and the new owners were wise enough to scrap every “improvement” that MySpace made over the last four years.
If someone started a service called “OldSpace,” that worked the way MySpace used to, they’d have 100 million users within six months.
MySpace is not Facebook. It is not Twitter. When they tried to turn it into those services, they drove away their loyal customers. If MySpace would concentrate on being the best version of MySpace that they could be, instead of a third-rate imitation of a vastly-more-successful social networking site, they may be able to survive.
But it’s not looking like that’s going to happen. This is a textbook case of a huge corporation buying an innovative new company that they don’t understand and driving it into the ground. Time Warner did it with AOL. News Corp has done it with MySpace.
I hate to see this. I’ve met good friends through MySpace. It used to be a great way to keep in contact with bands. Now it’s useless. Another victim of corporate incompetence.
Stuff To Do This Weekend
It’s a big weekend for musical acts who have been on Radio Free Charleston. Check out the cool performers that you can see in person after watching them on the show:
Ovada and Mother Nang are performing Saturday night at The Boulevard Tavern. Start time is 10 PM, and the cover is five bucks. Ovada has been on RFC 99 and 77, while Mother Nang has been on RFC 95, 83 and way back on episode nine.
Eva Elution are playing with Deadbeats and Barkers at the Empty Glass at 10 PM, with a five-dollar cover. You can see them on RFC 95 and on our gala 100th episode.
Playing at 7:30 Saturday at Taylor Books, with no cover charge, is Josh Buskirk, seen most recently on RFC 101.
“Dreamgirls,” produced by The Charleston Light Opera Guild, can be seen three more times, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM and Sunday at 2 PM at the Charleston Civic Center Little Theater. Tickets are $20. You can see Shayla Leftridge-Bonds performing a song from this show on this week’s RFC, episode 114.
That’s it for this week. Next week in PopCult we will continue with our Sunday Evening Videos, Monday Morning Art, Wednesday’s Cool Comics, and a special Thanksgiving PopCulteer with a preview of the Contemporary Youth Arts Company production of Dan Kehde and Mark Scarpelli’s “MARY.”