Everyone knows Jake from StateFarm, right? But, what about Tom from MySpace? Does that name ring a bell? Ah, for some I’m sure that brings back memories. Everyone with an internet connection in the early 2000’s should recognize that name. For anyone reading this who is asking themselves, “Who are you talking about?” or “What’s a MySpace?” — Keep reading.
What is MySpace? Who is Tom?
MySpace was the original social media site. According to Forbes, “It was the social network before Facebook; the one place people logged in every day to write to friends, show off photos, and play music.” (1) It was created back in 2003 by Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson. Tom was everyone’s first Friend on the social networking site. Each account was pre-friended to Tom, so if you had an account, you definitely knew of him, or at least saw his face before on your friend’s list. At the height of MySpace’s popularity, Tom from MySpace had over 220 million friends.
How it all started
The idea of creating his own social media website was thought up by DeWolfe as a final project for one of his courses at the University of Southern California. What was originally called Sitegeist, DeWolfe ran with the idea and created the MySpace that once was. (1) Friendster, a social media website that acted as a dating site-then turned gaming site, was up and coming at the start of the MySpace era. Some inspiration for MySpace was pulled from Friendster, but there were some major differences. As we know, where one goes, the rest follow.
How it differed
In an online essay by Danah Boyd in 2006, Boyd talks about what makes MySpace different from its predecessor, Friendster. She writes, “Myspace did not try to force people’s connecting practices into pre-existing ideas of what should be. They let the practice evolve as users saw fit, without criticism, without restriction. As it evolved, people did new things with it. They used it to flirt, to advertise bands and activities, to offer cultural kudos.” (6) MySpace allowed its users to do what they wanted with the site; to have the freedom to be themselves and use it for whatever purpose they wanted. Friendster was being used for friends to reconnect, and also for singles to mingle with other singles, all based on “friends of friends of friends.” The two sites different tremendously but brought the same crowd.
MySpace has paved the way for the success of social media. Between 2005 and 2008, MySpace was one of the most popular websites in the World. (3) At one point, the website was even getting more daily visitors than Google. It’s no surprise that at just two years old, the social media website was purchased by News Corp. for $280 million. (8)
What makes MySpace stand out from other social media sites is that, without even realizing, MySpace taught its users how to use basic HTML coding; allowing them to customize their profiles with bold text, center-aligned text, and even text that moves from one side of the screen to the other. The coding of the website also allowed its users to change the colors, layout, theme and style of their profiles, making it a more personalized and customizable social media experience. Users got to visit their friends’ profiles, and really get a feel for their personalities based on the layout and aesthetic of their profile, and the song that was playing as you scrolled through their profiles and read their “About Me” section. Customizing and personalizing their profiles really made users feel like they had their own website while still having the ability to connect with others.
The website also introduced many new artists to the music scene, such as Adele, Panic! at the Disco, Lily Allen, Owl City, and so many more. (9)(10) The platform had a Music section where artists could share their music to be streamed, which was beneficial for new artists who were finding a way to promote their music.
MySpace was the leader of online interactions. The site offered a feature that was showed when members were “Online Now!” which indicated the person who’s profile they were visiting were currently logged into the site. This which prompted interactions between friends in the comments section of profiles. MySpace also established the original “sliding into the DMs” by allowing its members we to send private messages to each other rather than commenting on their public profiles. Facebook has followed suit with this feature by allowing members to write on their public profiles or message privately on Facebook Messenger.
Signing off for the last time
Personally, MySpace defined my early teenage years. I remember asking my family to stay off the landline for hours while I customized my profile layout, chose a new profile song, added my Summer photos to a new album titled Summertime ’07, and rearranged my Top 8 Friends. Once Facebook came along, I tried to remain faithful to MySpace, but as more and more friends learned of the newest Social Media platform, less and less people were interacting with me on MySpace. As I said before, where one goes, the rest follow. I logged off one day, and never logged back on. It is because of MySpace that I have such a deep-routed love for social media, and why I am pursuing a career in this field. The decline of such a powerhouse in the Social Media World is devastating, but the future of social media has so much to be thankful for, as do I.