Myspace: An Internet Phenomenon

By the time you read this, 85,000,000, that is right, 85 million different profiles will be operational on Myspace. So where did Myspace come from? Initially, the domain was used for storage and other functions, but never really got off of the ground. The current incarnation was founded by Tom Anderson, a
Berkeley
and UCLA grad, in 2003. The company was partially owned by Intermix Media which was purchased by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp in 2005 so Myspace is part of one of the largest communication conglomerates in the world.

Myspace is a collection of profiles that have different sections that allow users to give a personal overview including likes and dislikes as well as preferences in music, entertainment and other areas. The site also allows users to create blogs that can be viewed by others. Users can also upload pictures and videos that can be viewed and commented upon.

Part of the appeal of Myspace is that each user can customize the look and feel of their individual page. Users also have certain numbers of friends depending on how many people use and view the pages. The top 8 friends are displayed on the page. Friends can also leave comments on the pages of other friends and users can also send messages within the site. Users can also upload a song that is played when their page is viewed.

Musicians have found Myspace a great way to market their music. Myspace allows musicians to upload up to four songs that can be played or downloaded directly from the musician’s Myspace page. A musician can also list dates and places they will be playing. This feature of Myspace has created a great deal of publicity and exposure for musicians who otherwise would have had to do without such a vast audience.

There are however a number of criticisms of Myspace. Many musicians are uncomfortable with the Myspace Terms of Service wherein a license is granted to NewsCorp to use any song uploaded to the site royalty free. NewsCorp is one of the largest media conglomerates in the world with outlets everywhere. This provision bothers many, but has not seemed to slow down the uploading of new music.

As well, there have been complaints concerning the ability of people to customize their individual pages. As the pages are customized using HTML, mistakes in code can cause browsers to freeze or to load slow. Also, given the number of people accessing the site, the demands of the server can be too great and the pages frequently load slow or are not accessible.

Some schools have blocked access to Myspace due to the strain it placed on their servers or due to the “moral implications” of the site. However chatter on Myspace has lead to arrest that have cause school violence and other crimes to be averted. Others have criticized the site as potential employers have allegedly been searching the site and not hiring potential employees based upon postings on the site.

Perhaps one of the largest concerns of Myspace is that children as young as 14 can join the site. Though their profiles are private and cannot be viewed without an invitation, many are concerned that the profiles can be breached or that child predators will exploit these children.

So why is Myspace so popular?

There is no one answer to that. Popular culture is a strange thing. With nearly 85 million profiles on Myspace, many of the people who are now viewing and joining the site are doing so because literally millions of other people are doing it. It is an easy way for people to communicate and given its current size, it has begun to manifest itself. You don’t need email addresses to communicate within Myspace and you don’t need to be bothered with spam. You also have a degree of control over who your friends are. Old friends are using Myspace to reconnect. Recent college graduates are using it to stay in touch. Musicians and filmmakers are using it to reach an audience. It is an online community that everyone seems to want to be a part of.

Presently there isn’t a lot of advertising on the site, but as it continues to grow, it will change. Recently Myspace announced that bids are being accepted to allow search based ads to be displayed on Myspace pages. Spam hasn’t infiltrated Myspace as of yet, but there are few places on the internet that so many people visit on such a regular basis, so it is likely that there are many people out there who can’t wait to find a way in. With such a ready made market and collection of people, it is only a matter of time.

Just a few years ago no one really knew what Myspace was, now people ask for Myspace account information in the same breath that they ask for phone numbers. Myspace is here to stay and it is likely that in the not to distant future it will be like cell phones – most people will have a Myspace account.

There are a number of legal concerns as well. For instance while it is a great outlet to expose the masses to your writing, thoughts or music, given the user agreement mentioned earlier, by posting on the site, you are granting access to NewsCorp to use anything you post on the site. This means that a picture, words or music could end up being used by NewsCorp, generating profits for them, to which you would be entitled to absolutely nothing.

Another area where liability could potentially arise is for the content of the pages on Myspace. Several alleged school violence incidents have been headed off as a result of information on Myspace pages and it is not unusual to hear of some activity that has first appeared on Myspace that has lead to some response by authorities or other groups. The question arises as to the liability of the site by allowing such postings or even if there could be some sort of defamation suit brought for content posted on Myspace. As the community continues to grow, such issues will have to be addressed; however, in the meantime, people will continue to visit the site and it will continue to grow.

Oh, and feel free to drop by my very own Myspace page – http://www.myspace.com/seankeefer. See you there!!!

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