TECH TALK: The MySpace Story: The Early Days

One of the biggest success stories in the past few years has been MySpace. It has blended personal home pages, social networking and user-generated content in a unique way to win the hearts of tens of millions people. MySpace was bought by Rupert Murdochs News Corp for $580 million last year. Recently, there have also been some privacy and other concerns raised around MySpace. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Lets first dig deeper into the MySpace story and the MySpace Generation, and try to understand what has made MySpace one of the most popular destinations on the Web.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about MySpace: MySpace is an social networking website offering an interactive network of photos, blogs, user profiles, groups, and an internal e-mail system. As of March 2006 it is the world’s fifth most popular English-language website (according to Alexa Internet[1]). MySpace has outstripped competitors such as Friendster and LiveJournal to become the most popular English-language social networking website with higher traffic and over 64 million users. It is synonymous with teenage culture.

Wired wrote about MySpaces early days in its November 2005 issue:

When [Tom] Anderson laid out his ideas for [Chris] DeWolfe in the spring of 2003, he described an online service unlike anything on the Web. It would, he said, be the ultimate social hub: part Friendster, part Blogger, part, part craigslist. “The idea was that if it was a cool thing to do online, you should be able to do it on MySpace,” he says. That summer, he and DeWolfe pitched the idea to eUniverse (later renamed Intermix Media), which agreed to provide startup capital in exchange for majority interest. The pair hired a team of five programmers and set to work.

DeWolfe, who had a lot of connections to the Los Angeles creative community, solicited suggestions from bands, artists, and other creative types. At first, growth was slow. A small but fervent community of musicians and club kids, many from the LA area, latched onto the site as a way to promote their music and stay in touch with fans. The site encouraged creativity to the point of chaos. For MySpace’s mostly young demographic, their pages were multimedia outgrowths of their jackets, lockers, and notebooks – a place for band stickers, poems, personality quizzes, R-rated photos, and anything else HTML allows.

In September, around the time Hawthorne Heights was sending its demo to Victory, MySpace exploded.

The magnitude of the growth hit Anderson when he flew to San Francisco to see a late-season baseball game. The night before, Anderson had indulged in his obsessive habit of checking the rankings for MySpace. “Over the course of just a few days we’d gone from the 30,000th most popular site to the 3,000th,” he says. Sitting in SBC Park watching the Giants beat the Dodgers, he looked around the stadium, taking in the 40,000 cheering fans. It struck him that approximately that many people were now signed up on MySpace. “Until then, we were getting maybe 500 new users a day,” he says. By October they were getting 10,000 new users a day.

This is what the New York Times wrote last August:

Created in the fall of 2003 as a looser, music-driven version of, MySpace quickly caught on with millions of teenagers and young adults as a place to maintain their home pages, which they often decorate with garish artwork, intimate snapshots and blogs filled with frank and often ribald commentary on their lives, all linked to the home pages of friends.

Even with many users in their 20’s MySpace has the personality of an online version of a teenager’s bedroom, a place where the walls are papered with posters and photographs, the music is loud, and grownups are an alien species.

Business Week wrote in a cover story on the MySpace Generation in late 2005: Not so long ago, behemoth MySpace was this tiny. Tom Anderson, a Santa Monica (Calif.) musician with a film degree, partnered with former Xdrive Inc. marketer Chris DeWolfe to create a Web site where musicians could post their music and fans could chat about it. Anderson knew music and film; De Wolfe knew the Internet business. Anderson cajoled Hollywood friends — musicians, models, actors — to join his online community, and soon the news spread. A year later, everyone from Hollywood teen queen Hilary Duff to Plano (Tex.) teen queen Adams has an account.

Tomorrow: Founder Talk

TECH TALK The MySpace Story+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.