My MySpace profile was abandoned when, at the ripe age of 18, I decided it was just a little too juvenile — the glittering GIFs affixed to every page, the garish customized designs, the pressure on maintaining your top 8. By 2006, Facebook offered a cleaner social experience; by 2009, Twitter offered a more casual one. MySpace was a complete relic by this point, even though only a few years had passed since its launch.
Back in 2005, though, long before MySpace burned out, its founder, Tom Anderson — whose grinning face greeted every new user as their first “friend” — sold the site for $580 million to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. While his site was becoming a punchline during the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the other social media networks we now use everyday, Anderson disappeared entirely from the tech scene. Now, he travels the world, documenting his visits to exotic locations.
Contrast that with what’s currently happening to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who’s on day two of being grilled by a Senate committee for Facebook’s role in haphazardly collecting all of our personal data, and possibly swinging the 2016 presidential election toward Donald Trump. What was supposed to be a basic networking tool has now become one of the chief mediators of how people interact with each other and the world around them, and how information is absorbed and disseminated on the internet. It’s now apparent that Facebook and Zuckerberg didn’t really consider any of this when aggressively pursuing growth, and now we’re all screwed as we try to untangle the consequences.
MySpace Tom? His most recent Instagram post from seven days ago is a giveaway for a stay at an Iceland hotel. He doesn’t have to issue any terse statements about his company’s commitment to fostering a healthy society; he doesn’t have to sit on a booster seat for seven hours and take dipshit questions from a procession of Senate ghouls. He isn’t worth as much money as Zuckerberg, of course, but unless you’re an oil baron, $580 million is enough to tide you over for the length of your lifetime, and your children’s lifetime, and your children’s children’s lifetime, and so on. (Even after taxes!) And yes, yes, being that rich is good for nobody, but without getting into an argument about the perils of capitalism, we can agree that personally speaking, Anderson is having a much better go of things.
It puts MySpace’s failure to evolve in a new light, as perhaps the healthy thing is for a platform to die and for everyone to move on. Its aesthetic and form, back when everyone had emo bangs and listened to Hawthorne Heights, couldn’t change without altering the meaning of the site altogether, and by that time, everyone was gone. Had Facebook not gotten too good at inserting itself between human users, there’s no way it would’ve run into their current problems at such a wide scope. The suspicious CEO is not the one who cashes out; it’s the one who sticks around and creates a behemoth.
Zuckerberg could have sold off his share and avoided becoming literally one of the most disliked people in the present moment. I never thought we’d declare MySpace the winner over Facebook, but then again, I never thought a lot of things about the moment we’re in.