Monday, October 1, 2018

When MySpace's Space Was Gobbled Up

Do you even remember MySpace?  Were you active on it at all?  I was.  It was the big social media website that was popular leading up to FaceBook. 

It was a peripheral service somehow of the music industry.  I don’t know it’s genesis, but by the time that I was on it, it was busy and buzzing with activity.  The thing about MySpace at that time was that you could customize your profile page.  And though I know close to nothing about writing code, for it took HTML code to customize, I was able to get bits of code from the internet to do what I needed.  There were sites dedicated to helping a person put photos and designs on their MySpace page.

I’m going to say that was around 2006 or so, maybe a little earlier. 

As I have always been one to check out new sites, especially when there weren’t that many, I would create profiles on most new social media sites and just kind of let them sit.  It was a way for me to get my available name before another Fred Herrman grabbed it.  Apparently, there is a well-known pool player with my name. 

So, as with all of these sites, I created a profile on Facebook.  It was very new at the time, and literally almost no one was on it.  It was akin to finding a channel on a scanner, maybe from an island off of the U.K., and all you hear is silence.  No one is there.

I left Facebook to sit with my profile for quite a while.  I want to say that it was a year, but it might have been a matter of months. I would be busy on MySpace and then kind of check in on those other newer social media sites.  None were worth sitting around in, and I’d go back to MySpace.

Well, suddenly at some time, people starting going to Facebook in droves.  Like people who formerly had never heard of Facebook when I brought it up to them as one of the sites I visited, were suddenly loading their profiles into it.  And pretty much, maybe within a year and a half, it was over as far as MySpace was concerned.  Everyone was on Facebook.

The reason I think about this bizarre transition is that it has always seemed to me that human nature dictates that people like to customize and show off their flare for things they are involved in.  MySpace allowed you to create amazing backgrounds, some psychedelic, some tiled photos, some just hues and colors.  Anything you could think of. 

And I remember that my experience on Facebook prior to it being populated was that I noticed how sort of rigid and formatted it was.  Just square shapes, specific places for comments, boxes for photos.  There was no individualization in it.  I really thought, “This is not a well designed website.” 

But a few billion people proved me wrong.  And I’ve always wondered why.  Did masses of people kind of need to be more boxed in than I thought they would need to be? Did people need design limitations and boundaries?  I simply would have never expected it. 

In my mind, how would huge numbers of people leave a social media site in which you could create…you.. in images, just to join a site where you have to participate in a precise way.  But if there is any sociologist in me, I guess I kind of hit it on the head.  Masses of people didn’t want to learn any HTML code, and given that people still back then, as short a time as it seems to have been, weren’t even exactly comfortable logging into a site and knowing what to do.  So they needed a site that had some restraints. 

Maybe that was also the reason that AOL was so popular for so long.  For people who couldn’t wrap their heads around just Google’ing (or I guess, Yahoo’ing) something completely out of the ether, it was a more comfortable experience for AOL to give them categories of what they might want to look for. 

Well, I have read that since MySpace was, as I alluded to earlier, a peripheral service to something having to do with music playback…something I have never really understood, MySpace really wasn’t interested in hosting the kind of social media need that it turned out that the world wanted.  That seems strange to me as well.  They could have changed the purpose of MySpace, but they didn’t.

Facebook ended up in that niche, dominating it, owning it.  Funny how these things come to pass.