Ok, it’s not dead yet. It’s feeling particularly well, but it is doomed.
It won’t go away 100% but it will go away 80%. Why?
AOL flourished and expanded and was considered “the’ place while the whole of the Internet existed. I remember the day AOL turned on their portal to Usenet (primitive discussion boards that was where practically the whole Internet population gathered to talk). It was a scary thing because suddenly all these AOL people started talking about how unsafe things were and the first SPAM’s started and all the old Internet people just shuddered.
After the first wave most of the AOL people never ventured out of the safe AOL boards for a decade. They were afraid of the vastness and chaos of the Internet and so they crawled back into their little fish bowl. It was a no brainer for most AOL members. They got a CD in the mail and stuck it into their computer and found a board or two that they liked and were happy.
They turned into vocal ambassadors for AOL. Loudly proclaiming that it was THE place to be. I was even belittled by an AOL member because I couldn’t read the same board that she did. When I replied that I didn’t want to pay the monthly fee, she told me that I could never be anybody unless I joined AOL.
But over time the AOL members got used to ocean that is the internet. They explored. The found the rules and limitations of AOL were too limiting and that there were other people that they wanted to interact with that weren’t on AOL and so they moved out of the fish bowl.
It’s now about 10 years from their hay day, but AOL has all but disappeared. They don’t have members any more, anybody can see their boards. They are still a reasonable conglomerate of content, but nothing that you can’t get elsewhere with more value.
MySpace is a fish bowl. It’s a beachhead where teens can own their first internet property and not have to think about the vastness of the internet ocean. It has the functionality they need to feel cozy, just like AOL had the easiest user interface. (Although I must say that the MySpace user interface sucks.) But time, functionality and the internet marches on. And every generation gets more comfortable with the internet out of the womb.
Teenagers do not exist in the same space without somebody getting hurt. Although I doubt I’m talking Columbine hurt, I do think that the virtual equivalent will probably happen if it hasn’t already. Security on MySpace isn’t great and once you log in as the person you are angry at, a host of evil possibilities are easily in your reach.
Although this will hurt MySpace, it’s not really the thing that’s going to kill them.
If you look in the cafeteria of any high school or Junior High, you will notice that the kids sit in cliques. Freaks hate the jocks. Computer Geek’s hate the Student Government types. etc. etc. etc. The Cheerleaders are not going to co-exist in close approximation to the stoners any longer than is possible. They would like to exist in an exalted and exclusive board with lots of pink and other Cheerleads. This way they can plot how to be extra mean to all the people around them. (Can you tell I wasn’t a cheerleader?)
This is a small twist on the LongTail “don’t be a Big Fish” thing and “Small is the new big.”
3. That is *so* 2006!
If the right teen idol declares that MySpace isn’t cool they could lose 50% of their traffic overnight.
When the next mini-generation notices that all the un-cool older people are on MySpace, they will find a new place (or many new places) to swarm to.
As the number of social networks that people belong to grows, the time it takes to service each network becomes more irksome. The number of blog hits is contracting right now rather than growing because they all just became too much for people to keep up with.
As MySpace becomes less valuable to their users the cost of time to maintain my profile/email/blog, etc become a drag.
(This point could also have been made in the AOL section)
5. When I became I man I put away childhood things
People grow up, move on and leave childhood behind them. None of my high school friends (4-Eva) kept in touch, even though we all were home for the holidays. We had moved on.
None of my college friends keep in touch, same reason. Same with single friends, same with friends before we moved across country, etc.
My brother keeps in touch with his high school friends and even gets together with them once a year, but they do it threw email. They wouldn’t put up with the advertisements, spam and other crap that is MySpace.
So they are doomed and there is nothing they can do about it. Changing their interface isn’t going to stop the march of time. Creating Clique Groups isn’t going to change the fickle fashion sense of teenagers and teenage idols. Streamlining everything to reduce their drag is going to kill their bottom line and not broker peace between the freaks and the jocks.
The bottom line is that in the long run, you can not successfully create a fish bowl for humans.