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Facebook May Go the MySpace Route



Anyone reading the headline of this article will probably want some hard core facts to back up my statement. Well, I don't intend to provide all that – this is an opinion piece after all, and to be honest I'm not writing for a Pullitzer here – but I'm inspired by the topic for the simple reason that I find myself particularly irritated with that social media platform we call Facebook. And when I ask around, many others are too. In fact, many of my friends say they only use it because that's where their friends are, but if they could move somewhere else they would.

So be prepared for a gripe session.

For those of you who don't know MySpace or aren't familiar with its story, let me backtrack by telling you a bit about it. Essentially, MySpace were doing the Facebook thing long before Zuckerberg and those twins that no one can remember came up with the idea. (OK, only about a year before.) MySpace was launched in 2003 and became such a popular and profitable platform that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation bought it for $580 million in 2005. Murdoch's company owns newspapers, news channels and Twentieth Century Fox.

In December of 2008, MySpace boasted of 75,9 million monthly unique visitors in the U.S. alone. (Of course, Do Gaming does better than that.) The site apparently brought in $470 million in advertising dollars in 2009 (according to emarketer).

So they had a pretty good thing going, right? Not so. After their peak the decline was rapid. Facebook had arrived as a huge contender and had gained enough momentum and beat them so bad in the race that MySpace was eventually sold for $35 million in June, 2011 – hardly the $100 million that News Corporation wanted when it put it up for sale. But at least it's now got Justin Timberlake at the helm. Interestingly, Activision Blizzard were also at one stage thinking of buying MySpace.

As of November of this year, MySpace is ranked 233rd in web traffic according to Alexa.

But why? There are a lot of reasons – including mismanagement, a lack of vision and so forth – according to numerous analysts. But several obvious factors around the platform itself always come up and I'm going to highlight them by showing how Facebook is actually making the same mistakes.

Justin Timberlake Bringing sexy back to Myspace... almost - Justin Timberlake

1. It got real ugly

MySpace certainly began to earn itself as one of the ugliest sites on the Internet (admittedly not as bad as YvettesBridalFormal or what was clearly inspired by that site). If you go to MySpace.com now the front page looks pretty OK, but click on 'browse people' and click on any one of the dodgy girls' photos (and there are plenty) and you'll be greeted with pretty much the same ugliness. (I include the photo in some cases.) They still didn't get it, it seems.

Is Facebook ugly? Hell, yes. Maybe it looked all new some years back but it's starting to look mighty tiresome. Sure, it's better than MySpace by a zillion, but when you compare it to some of the newer sites out there it's not exactly a double rainbow.

2. Too much legacy

Facebook's problem right now in my eyes is the same as what MySpace had – you've coded this entire system and doing a facelift (see what I did there?) now means you create problems with both your audience and your entire website (and your sanity). You've got all this legacy in both looks and features but now it's outdated. So what do you do with it? If you change too drastically, people get frustrated. Not quickly enough, people get frustrated. You have companies that have also bought in. People that have developed apps. And the list goes on and on.

Enter the problem with the Internet and technology – it moves on. And quickly. And sooner or later you're left behind unless you're creating something brand new from the ground up. It interests me that platforms such as Youtube and so forth are managing to keep up. But Facebook has way too much legacy.

For instance, if I want to schedule an update it's a laborious process. On other platforms all it does is bring up a calendar and I click the date I want the update to go live. On Facebook, I have to first select a year (then the screen loads), then a month, and so on. To group friends is still a bit of a pain (although it's better than before, by a long shot) and the search function still appears to be pretty useless to me.

Napster co-founder (and former Facebook President), Sean Parker summed this up in an interview with TechCrunch around where MySpace went wrong:

“The failure to execute product development... They weren’t successful in treating and evolving the product enough, it was basically this junk heap of bad design that persisted for many many years. There was a period of time where if they had just copied Facebook rapidly, they would have been Facebook.”

Facebook is obviously copying its competitors like Google Plus as rapidly as it can (Google's Circles feature seemed a wake-up call for Facebook) but there are still some obvious issues and a hunk of bad design they need to get rid of.

Sean Parker Sean Parker - former Facebook president and Napster co-founder. He now serves on the board of directors at Spotify, amidst other posts.

3. Too much corporate

Facebook went public this year and shares quickly dropped to less than half their initial price. That wasn't the end of it, either. In October, it seems a good deal of the Facebook staff also sold off their shares.

I'm sure I'm not the only one to notice that my feed is becoming something of a smorgasbord of advertising. I don't care who my friends like or what they do on their Facebook feed. Maybe there are settings I need to tinker with but honestly, should I have to?

I have the inkling that investors have realised that Facebook – like a good deal of websites – face a problem of actually making money. All those users but nothing to actually sell them – except advertising, which a great deal of them ignore and another great deal of them get irritated with. Of course, you can also sell market research, but need to find ways to do so without violating your privacy policy or the laws of the nation / state you operate within. Or damage your PR, of course.

Mark Zuckerberg Mark Zuckerberg

4. Too many kittens

Facebook's original allure (back when it started as something only particular college students in the U.S. could use) was that not everybody was on it. Or, at least, only those people you actually wanted to connect with were on it. But as soon as everyone gets on it, you need to watch what you post or face your Facebook page turning into a Youtube comment feed. The trolls are hungry.

Plus, you're inundated with annoying posts of kitty's playtime; the apocalypse; self-improvement; Oprah-philosophy; Dr. Phil's latest-and-greatest quote; the-acronym-that-will-change-your-life-forever (at least until tomorrow); and on and on and on.

Sure, you can put some control into your feed and only talk (or be spoken to) by those you want. I get that. But I can only do it on my December holiday as it's going to take a huge amount of time and effort. And let's not forget the endless events I'm invited to or how I suddenly become part of a group page without even having been asked!

It's tiring managing Facebook. Just like MySpace got tiring. While Twitter can be just as noisy (and just as preachy and irritating) at least I can turn it on and off at will. I'm not going to hurt anyone's feelings by not following them. You know what to expect. Not so with Facebook.

It's not an easy business to be involved in. I've often heard people say that, “I wish I came up with something like Facebook – you just make it and it runs itself and you make money.” No it doesn't and, like most websites and like most products, it's not going to last forever. MySpace thought they were invincible. They were wrong. Facebook may just go the same route. It seems inevitable, sooner or later.

The alternative? Well, I really do like Google Plus. But of course most of my friends just aren't on there (or aren't using it).

There's also always anonplus. Ah... on second thought, maybe not.

About Ryan Peter

Ryan Peter has been an avid gamer for over 25 years, seeing the industry evolve from King's Quest to what it is today. He is the editor of Do Gaming and a ghostwriter of fantasy and sci-fi. His fantasy book When Twins War is available at Amazon.com, in the iBookstore for the iPad or at Smashwords.com.