The Many Faces of MySpace, the Internet's Greatest Tragedy

MySpace was just sold like a GameCube on Craigslist, snatched up by a no-name advertising firm (and Justin Timberlake?) for less than a tenth of what NewsCorp bought it for in '05. But it wasn't always a disaster. Let's reminisce.

The Many Faces of MySpace, the Internet's Greatest Tragedy

The Stone Age

When MySpace spilled forth from its tangled web placenta in 2004, having made the strange transition from file storage startup to social networking (whatever that is!) destination, it looked like this. Spartan.

The basic social network schtick had been more or less sorted out by Friendster—you had friends, you had photos, you had a profile. MySpace didn't do much to push the envelope here, aside from promising you Tom, too lame and frozen to be anything but your reliable insta-friend. What it did do—revolutionarily—was allow you to make your profile really fucking ugly.

The Many Faces of MySpace, the Internet's Greatest Tragedy

The Sparkle GIF Clusterfuck Supernova (The Golden Age)

MySpace claimed the hearts (and screens) of every mirror-posturing tween, mediocre band, and child molester, because the site was a complete apocalyptic aesthetic free-for-all. Want a background of pink glitter and Hollaback Girl looping? Go for it! Want twelve embedded videos that all play simultaneously next to a photo of you that's captioned ~*~SoRrY Im sO sAsSy~*~* ? It's all yours! MySpace was the internet's horrible subconscious, a collective burp from the bowels of everything ugly, confused, and discordant about the internet and the America using it. And that's why it mattered. MySpace was "A Place for Friends," but it was really about you. Users stared into the abyss, and the abyss stared back into them—usually with the face of tacky clipart.

It was massively popular because of its tolerance. There was virtually nothing too stupid or bad to find a home on MySpace. And that's why it was, for those few years, brilliant. Launching the careers of a few pop stars—some lasting, some not—also helped. It was web's Ellis Island. Everyone had a chance to make it! Right? Right..?

The Many Faces of MySpace, the Internet's Greatest Tragedy

The Decline

Well, it turned out not everyone wanted a social network that encouraged mass eye-gouging and general anarchy. Facebook's cleanliness and collegiate exclusivity lured millions away from MySpace's sequined cesspool. Having sunk $580 million into this particular pit, Rupert Murdoch's team struggled to redefine MySpace—not as a social network, because really, that game was long over before anyone realized—but as some strange catalog of obscure (mostly terrible) music, "entertainment," and inane games. It was regressive. It was slightly less ugly. MySpace made efforts to curb some of its aesthetic war crimes with profile redesigns and a spiffed up front page, but the slide was too precipitous to stop.

People wanted a social network that at least had some semblance of real life relationships, instead of thousands of people dropping banner ads on your wall and spamming you with links to their Postal Service cover band. MySpace was confused. Facebook was coherent. It was an easy decision.

The Many Faces of MySpace, the Internet's Greatest Tragedy

The Death

MySpace is as good as dead. Liquidated for an embarrassing price, staff nuked, users fled, it'll remain the internet's Ozymandias, but little else. I have a feeling Friendster's fate awaits it. I had to go to Friendster just now to see if it's even still up, and it is: as some kind of half-assed social gaming site. I bet that'll catch! Whoever bought into MySpace will probably snip off the logo and carry it far away from the ash heap it is now. And for good reason. Murdoch's Rome burned for a reason—you can't sustain an empire on heinous GIFs and garage bands. Goodbye and good riddance.


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