MySpace: Going Down The YouTubes

In an article last April, I predicted the decline of MySpace as a result of over-commercialization and desertion by bored users:

“These examples of commercialization foreshadow precisely how the culture of MySpace will become tarnished and unappealing. Its members will come to feel disinterested and exploited.”

Now the Washington Post is catching up with me. In their story this past Sunday, they interviewed MySpace users and found that many of them have gotten over thier initial addiction to the site. Not only are they and their friends deleting their profiles, the ones that stay are spending much less time there. One former user summed up the downtrend by stating simply that, “I’ve grown out of it. I thought it was kind of pointless.”

A MySpace spokesperson, in the mold of Baghdad Bob (“What American troops?”), discounts these reports as anecdotal and cites the growing number of new profiles. There was no breakdown of whether these where net new profiles, or how many of them are advertisers of other commercial accounts.

I continue to maintain that MySpace has less than two years before it joins the ranks of Friendster has-beens and Rupert Murdoch’s brilliant acquisition will be seen as another dotcom folly. The deeper folly may be the notion that giant media conglomerates like News Corp can glom onto a trendy counter-culture craze without extinguishing its coolness.

YouTube is going down the same road (or series of tubes) now that it has been swallowed up by neo-megalith, The Google. There was speculation prior to the acquisition that once YouTube had a deep pocketed parent, the copyright-wingers would crest the hill with their army of lawyers. Last week YouTube agreed to remove 30,000 videos at the request of a Japanese publishers group. And now, Comedy Central, demonstrating their obtuse short-sightedness, has ordered all of its content off the site. Even before the buyout, YouTube ratted out a user to the Viacom Police, who set upon said user forthwith with a lawsuit.

The beauty of the Internet is that it’s a fluid environment that allows people to flow to the services that provide the most value and allows communities to find their own level when their needs are being fulfilled. MySpace has been working contrary to those goals by expanding intrusive marketing initiatives and cracking down on content bandits. YouTube faces many of the same risks. And since Big Media has always considered these upstarts a threat, they may not be the least bit troubled by their waning prospects, even as they devour them. But so long as the Internet’s flow is unimpeded, people will continue to seek and find new ways to set information free.