MySpace killed MySpace. Duh.

posted by Jeff | Friday, March 25, 2011, 3:39 PM | comments: 1

I don't usually read anything that Robert Scoble says, because he's about as relevant to technology as my cats are, but the High Scalability blog linked to his asinine dissertation about why MySpace failed. Scoble thinks it was because of the platform and the location, or perhaps because people starting trendy companies don't use .NET. Pick a ridiculous reason, he probably has it.

I'll make the usual disclaimer that as someone who works for Microsoft, I might be biased toward the products it makes. I would add that I'm not shy about being critical of the company either. Naturally, my first urge is to defend the platform. is the 9th most visited domain on the Interwebs, according to Quantcast, and it's clearly running on our platform. But the more I think about it, the more I think about how the platform is irrelevant.

MySpace has been in a death spiral because it sucks. It always sucked. Before Facebook opened its doors beyond universities, I was lucky enough to see it via much younger friends who were still in school. I immediately saw how useful it was. The day it opened to everyone, I knew MySpace was history unless they could be more like Facebook.

And we know how that turned out. If Scoble would have made one pass at his own piece, he would've seen that he had the core engineering problem related to their failure: "...They can’t change their technology to really make new features work or make dramatically new experiences." That's a sign of a tightly coupled system, and that's poor design. You can fail in this way using any platform.

The other reason for their failure is likely a people problem. That problem is obviously platform agnostic as well. My first exposure to MySpace from an engineering perspective was at Mix06, where they passed out invites to a big party, and one of the senior people/execs got up on the bar and encouraged people to apply for the army of .Net developers they were hiring. It was a pretty diverse crowd at that conference, but I can't say that I encountered many people running to sign up. That was hardly a great recruiting strategy. I was working for a startup myself at that point, and there was nothing compelling about what they were doing.

I consider myself a technology enthusiast, and I love how we constantly see new ideas hit the Web. I'm also realistic about what I see in front of me. The very honest truth is that most tech Startups go nowhere, or at best, have short lifespans. Things like Google, Facebook and Amazon are the rarest of exceptions. The most exciting stories to me are about smaller companies that solve some problem, even if it is a niche problem, and they build a sustainable business around it. There is no end game around selling or going public, they just do what they do. The best part is that their barrier to entry was much lower than it would have been 20 years ago, because of the Internet.

People in the tech bubble just don't understand this. People like Scoble gauge interest starting with location (is it in Silicon Valley?) and how they're funded (what round are they on?). It annoys me to no end. For all of the toxicity hurled at the 37signals guys for sounding like arrogant dicks, perhaps some of it deserved, they're absolutely right for focusing on the practice of building sustainable businesses, not taking investors money and seeing how much cash they can burn. I respect that.


George Burgyan, March 27, 2011, 8:10 PM #

Ya know, for everything that was wrong my MySpace, the biggest had nothing to do with the raw technology: It was LOUD. The text was loud. Everything blinked. The background was loud. Hell, it was literally loud. Every stinkin' page has some obnoxious music playing.

I didn't use it because it gave me a headache.

I'm not a 12 YO so I probably didn't fit the demographic they were aiming at.

I think *that* is why FB won.

Like you said: everything can be done poorly; everything can be abused. Cocaine, C#, Chocolate -- all abuse-able (and cleverly begin with C).

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