Social networking sites peaked the year 2007. These sites encouraged online social connections. Early sites such as SixDegrees.com and Friendster allowed people to manage a list of friends. One drawback to these sites was that they did not offer users the ability to publish content like blogs.
Social networking sites begin with a group of founders sending out messages to friends to join the network. In turn the friends send out messages to their friends, and the network grows. When members join the network, they create a profile. Depending on the site, users can customize their profile to reflect their interests. They also begin to have contact with friends, acquaintances, and strangers.
Founded in 2002, Friendster used the model of friends inviting friends to join in order to grow its network. It quickly signed on millions of users. Unfortunately, as the site grew larger, technical issues surfaced. Painfully slow servers made it difficult for users to move around the site. Additionally, management enforced strict policies on fake profiles. These false profiles, or "fakesters," as they were known, were deleted by the site. This approach turned off users. Eventually, Friendster began to lose members in the United States.
Fellow networking site SixDegrees.com closed its doors after the dot-com bust in 2000. Within a few years, these early social networking sites found their popularity declining. At the same time, a new social networking site called MySpace was beginning to take off.
THE RISE OF MYSPACE
MySpace brought together the social features of networking sites and the publishing capabilities of blogs. The combination of the two tools struck a home run with teens. Young people were looking for a more social way to blog. MySpace provided the solution.
In 2003 Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe launched MySpace in Santa Monica, California. As music fans, the pair designed the site as a place to promote local music acts. They also wanted to be able to connect with other fans and friends.
On MySpace, users created a Web page with a personal profile. Then they invited other users to become their friends. According to DeWolfe, the bands were a great marketing tool in the beginning. He said: "All these creative people became ambassadors for MySpace by using us as their de facto promotional platform. People like to talk about music, so the bands set up a natural environment to communicate."1
Anderson and DeWolfe were determined to keep MySpace an open site. Anyone could join the community, browse profiles, and post whatever they wanted. User control was one of their founding principles. It also made initial financing hard to find. According to Anderson: "We'd get calls from investor types who wanted to meet us. They would say 'Your site isn't professional. Why do you let users control the pages? They're so ugly!'"2
In the meantime MySpace continued to sign people up. Teens and young adults loved the site. They flocked to create their own profiles. The ability to customize pages, load music, and share videos added to the MySpace appeal.
Unlike other early social networking sites, MySpace gave users a media-rich experience. Users could express themselves on their Web page by adding music and video clips. At the same time, they could socialize with friends. MySpace made social contact easier with tools such as e-mail, comment posts, chat rooms, buddy lists, discussion boards, and instant messaging. MySpace brought together the ability to express oneself and to socialize in one place.
The timing was perfect. Over the next two years, MySpace grew at a tremendous pace. The site's success brought attention from investors. Rupert Murdoch, famous for his media empire, wanted to buy MySpace. Murdoch had interests in television, film, newspapers, publishing, and the Internet. In 2005 Murdoch purchased MySpace for an amazing $580 million.
By early 2008 MySpace had grown to...