Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Today @ PC World blog at PCWorld.com.
It’s almost hard to believe, but MySpace used to be the most popular social networking site in the world. After internal shake-ups and faltering popularity, the site seems, now more than ever, to be headed straight for the pavement, face-first. Its latest attempt at reinvention, called “Discover and be Discovered,” might be MySpace’s last-ditch shot at recapturing the public’s wavering attention.
“Discover and be Discovered” (which sounds like a weekend self-help seminar in the woods) aims to morph MySpace into a go-to spot for finding new media, according to TechCrunch. Supported by its new activity stream and status updates appearing in Google searches, MySpace wants to shove new things—people, music, movie trailers, articles, games, etc.—into the Web ether, apparently to provide users with an immersive learning experience as an alternative to the static blah of Facebook streams.
“MySpace has always been a place for people to discover. Core to our DNA are the concepts of self expression, customization, and personalization. You can expect more products and functionality that make it easier for users to discover what they’re interested in and be discovered by those that matter to them,” MySpace said in a statement issued to WebProNews.
The ambitious plan still has its social networking roots, but registers more as a “recommendation engine” than a place to check in on what kind of sandwich your uncle just ate.
Re-imagining MySpace is not a new concept; the News Corp. site has been attempting to do so for several years. MySpace Music provided a fresh gush of oxygen and established itself as a lucrative spot for indie bands to broadcast their tunes and get discovered. But at the same time, MySpace experienced a related media failure: streaming online video became massive, yet MySpace somehow experienced a decline in viewers. It’s almost pathetic that one of the most popular online activities couldn’t foster attention on the site.
Another failure was remakingmyspace.com, an attempt to overhaul absolutely everything about the site, from its user interface to its philosophy. But Kate Geminder, the senior vice president of user experience, bailed on the experiment, and the person who hired her, Owen Van Natta, departed the week before. This trail of HTML tears doesn’t bode well; it seems that no matter what MySpace does, it ends up with contract terminations and hasty departures.
Unless MySpace can successfully step away from social networking and bloom as a different entity, it will likely be crushed by its competition. Facebook is obviously huge: in October 2009, Facebook experienced a 200 percent increase over the prior year and is now nearly synonymous with social networking. Twitter continues to grow exponentially. There are now 50 million tweets per day—that’s 600 tweets per second. MySpace, meanwhile, has fallen 55 percent to a market share of only 30 percent—about half of Facebook.
News Corps.’s overseer of Internet businesses had harsh words for the Web site at last year’s Web 2.0 summit. He said MySpace “stopped innovating” at a time when it led the social networking market, and this opened the door for Facebook and Twitter to crush it out like a cigarette butt. “The thing you see in this space more than anything else is that if you don’t keep innovating and moving forward, you get in trouble. You can’t stop. And MySpace stopped.”
Staff cuts and financial fumbles don’t exactly inspire confidence in the site’s future. In June 2009, MySpace cut its international staff and closed offices abroad. Days later, MySpace described itself as “bloated” and slashed staff by almost 30 percent. So not only are senior executives dropping like flies, regular employees are finding pink slips in their inboxes.
“Discover and be Discovered” has promise, and it’s more than evident from MySpace’s recent cracks that the site either needs to evolve or die. Despite the fact that I deleted my MySpace account years ago, “Discover and be Discovered,” with its integration of watercooler chatter, RSS and multimedia, sounds as though it could be a boon amidst a constant struggle. Or, like some of its previous endeavors, it could implode and spell the demise of what was once king of the social networking heap.