By Jonathan Duffy
BBC News Magazine
In little more than a couple of years MySpace.com has gone from zero to being a top five website which no self-respecting US teenager can ignore. Now, it's gaining ground in Britain.
As any creative thinker knows the best ideas are always the most obvious. The rise of MySpace.com from nowhere to almost the top of the internet tree in just 36 months does nothing to change that maxim.
MySpace is simplicity itself - a site that enables anyone to build their own homepage for free, listing their likes, dislikes, favourite bands, top books, best movies, general interests, relationship status etc, and then hook-up with other like-minded folk.
As 25-year-old Briana Dougherty, a MySpace devotee, puts it, "it's a casual way to stay in contact without appearing weird".
When Briana, who works in the music industry, hits the town, goes to a gig or a party and meets someone interesting, they trade MySpace profiles and stay in contact.
Asking for someone's e-mail address can be "creepy", says Briana, who is from California and works in London, because it's "personal, one-to-one contact".
She has 224 "friends" on MySpace. Some are good friends from back home in the US, some are just people "you occasionally see around parties" and some are not actually individuals, but bands she likes.
Music, always a lively topic of conversation among the young, is a great common denominator on MySpace, and fertile ground for emerging bands - the Arctic Monkeys' owe much of their success to the site.
These days the time-honoured teenage conversational gambit "What music are you into?" will likely be met with a response along the lines of "Can I refer you to my MySpace page."
MySpace is what's known as a social networking site. It's by far the biggest, claiming about 57 million registered users, and is currently ranked the fifth most popular English language site on the net by the Alexa ratings service. Others of the same genre include Facebook, Bebo, MSN Spaces, Friendster and Yahoo 360.
All work in a similar way, offering users a host of conventional internet functions - blogging, user forums, instant messaging, personal profiles, online photo albums, visitor comment spaces - in one place.
The new man behind MySpace - media mogul Rupert Murdoch
See someone who's into the same music as you, similar films, is a compatible star sign, or you just fancy? Send them a message and if they're interested, bingo, you've made a friend. Although MySpace wouldn't confirm its UK audience, it has been cited at between two and four million. The launch of a UK-specific site is thought to be imminent.
The success of MySpace has not gone unnoticed by commercial operators who have seized on it as a handy way of targeting potential customers. For example, anyone who proclaims their interest in kite-surfing, should steel themselves for a torrent of e-mails from companies trying to sell them the latest kit.
And with millions of users, social networking sites, which make money out of advertising, are potential goldmines. MySpace was bought last year by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation for $580m (£332.85m).
But while Mr Murdoch, 75 this week, is clearly hip to the appeal of MySpace, many people even half his age will never have heard of it.
"The appeal of these sites lies in the crucial part of the adolescent socialisation process which we all go through... finding your identity, voice, place and status - the tribe with which you most identify," says Jo Twist, senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research.
DANGERS OF NETWORKING SITES
The safety of people, particularly children and women, using MySpace is a growing concern
Rachel O'Connell, who leads the Home Office taskforce on internet safety, is anxious that pages are so easily searchable
Displaying photos of oneself helps stalkers, she says
MySpace's Chris DeWolfe says 'This isn't a MySpace issue, it's an internet issue'
The ideas behind these sites are not new, says Dr Twist, but what is characterising the trend now is the "ease with which people can upload and share their own 'digital assets' - motifs that say something about who they are."
Some parents will doubtless gaze at their offspring busily cultivating friendships online - rather than in the real world - with an air of despair. But, says Dr Twist, it can be hard for them to understand because "many of us have our social networks in place".
The ease with which relationships can be forged online is changing the nature of friendship too. After all, how common is it to have upwards of 200 friends?
MySpace user Stella Sims, 26, sees a clear, but unspoken, competitive streak among users.
"It's a place to show off your personality and how many friends you have. It's a bit of statement of how popular you are," says Stella.
Any philosopher or psychologist will tell you that close friendships with more half-a-dozen people is not possible, says Mark Vernon, author of the Philosophy of Friendship.
The site is said to have 57 million registered users
MySpace friendships are more akin to "audience reach... like Richard and Judy" than traditional social reach.
"Friendship takes time to develop. The person who says they have hundreds of friends wants our compassion not our envy. The heart of friendship is wanting to know someone and be known by them. This is not the same as knowing about someone which is what you get if you never meet your online pal face to face."
Some will find the idea of setting out one's personal life to a potential audience of millions perplexing. Yet MySpace users show little sign of being intimidated by their extensive friendship networks, or indeed by the inevitable threat posed by dishonest, even predatory, users.
Despite a spate of paedophiles and stalkers targeting the site - two men were charged in the US on Tuesday with assaulting girls they met on MySpace - most users simply ignore unwanted communications, according to a recent academic study in the US.
Perhaps the biggest headache anyone with a couple of hundred mates needs to get their head around is how to manage their Christmas card list.
Add your comments on this story, using the form below.
My experience of Myspace.com is that it's a natural development of the self-obsessed vanity publishing so often witnessed in blogs. Showboating online to an equally self-obsessed audience of 'virtual' friends sounds like a valid past-time for naturally self-obsessed teenagers, but for anyone older than 20, collecting 'friends' in this manner is just desperate, sad, and a nod towards wanting to regain one's youth.
MySpace is a bizarre phenomenon and definitely smacks of teenage-popularity-contest desperation but I (being that bit older at 28) tend to use it for other purposes than to pretend I'm the most popular kid in my town. I primarily use the site to keep in touch with friends around the country and also find it an excellent way to discover new bands who don't necessarily appeal to the mainstream rock press. Having said that I have met a few people who I would actually consider 'friends' in the true sense through the site as well. Plus of course you get to make out that you're way cooler than you really are.
Matt Coe, Swansea
I don't agree that you can't "know" someone if you never meet face to face. If you spend time with them in Instant Messenger and on the telephone I feel like you can know them just as well as a friend 'In Real Life' in fact I have friends online who I have never met because they live in other countries that may know me better than friends I have right here
A number of my friends have joined the MySpace craze, and it seems to me that they're just joining because "all the cool kids are doing it." I was drawn in to the phenomenon for a while; as soon as some friends accused me of thinking they were 'chumps' for not adding them to my friends list, I cancelled my membership. As of now, my take on MySpace is this: I'm not interested - if I'm going to make friends with someone, I'll do it the 'real' way. Maybe it's because I'm an ex-pat Englishman, but I don't 'get' MySpace.
David, Greenville, South Carolina, USA
Re "Perhaps the biggest headache anyone with a couple of hundred mates needs to get their head around is how to manage their Christmas card list. " - simple, put them all in a mail group and send them an ecard. Problem solved!
Pete Belcher, Huntin gdon, Cambs
Through MySpace it's possible to gain a massive audience for music and film projects unobtainable through almost every other avenue. I and my housemate make a Power Rangers parody entitled Emo Rangers and currently have 25,000 people signed up to our fiends list, which for a non-profit fan film is quite an audience. I see this kind of group integration and communication as the way forward for the internet.
Nick Pittom, Chelmsford, Essex
As a parents of 11 and 13 year old girls who were respectively representing themselves as 17 and 16 and using the site in a raunchy manner as expressions of or in order to explore their sexuality we were terrified. We have terminated their total Internet access. Other parents on their 'friends' list have either closed the sites or insisted that that they have access to profiles limited to known actual rather than virtual 'friends.' Letters to the site from us went unanswered.
Eric Ericsson, Miami Florida
As a website owner, I have a huge problem with Myspace users hotlinking to images on my site. For those who aren't in the know, hotlinking is where someone uses images from another website by linking directly to the image, not hosting it themselves.
Because of the size of Myspace, this practice costs me considerable bandwidth and in turn, money, which is added on to the expense of operating a business. So Although it's a great idea, there are a few people hurt by it. Unfortunatley I'm one of them!
Jeff D, Dundee, Scotland
Considering how painfully slow and prone to crashes myspace is, I'm surpised it's so popular. That and the amount of unsolicited meesages from men wanting to 'chat'(!) should put off all except the most vain teenager.
Steg Stegsson, Warwick, Warwickshire
Myspcae has been a great marketing tool for my unsigned band the pocket gods - have increased our fan base and even made celebrity fans such as Vic Reeves and Alan Mcgee. It's great for music and has the record industry running scared
Mark Lee, St Albans, UK
Opera have been doing this for a while, completely free and not Ad-sponsored, at my.opera.com. This kind of "news" is typical of media fad-creation and helps in the sense that it effectively drives the self-fulfilling prophecy. Let's have some technology news that really is "news" to people. Examples: growth in the Linux market, alternative browsers, open source developments (not just mozilla please) etc :)
The only reason I've heard of MySpace is because a few inconsiderate people who use it have decided that they would use large photographs, that I took and host on my personal web site, as backdrops/wallpapers for their MySpace pages. Not by downloading the images and hosting themselves, but by directly linking to my images and using up bandwidth I've paid for to display them. Without even asking me or crediting me or my site for the images.
I love MySpace, I was introduced to it by my sister, and now I have a mixture of "friends" - some random some not so... although I am a regular contributer to the I love Marmite group!!! It's a brilliant idea, and means I can keep in touch with all my mates at home, even though at the moment I'm not with them
I have to admit the appeal of MySpace is all-encompassing. It offers something for everyone--the voyeur, the music guru, the serial monogamist, the intellectual, the techy etc. What it rarely offers is REAL friendship. REAL friendship is not brokered through anonymity it happens in the real world, person to person, NOT screen to screen. For those who use it as a way to stay in touch with current friends, it works well, but for those looking to improve your social skills and coax a few strangers into being your friend, may the force be with you.
Negarra, Leiden, The Netherlands
Myspace is just an outlet for self-professed, self-obessed teenagers. And thats fine. Better on myspace than in real life.
Plus you look a hell of a lot cooler on myspace.
Adrian Abbott, Toulouse, France
I think this article and subsequent posts miss the point of myspace and blogs - they are fun! Yep, strange but true they are fun to do, fun to read and just another step to making sure when you go onine you're not browsing aimlessly - PS as a 38-year-old with a myspace site it's not a teen-fad!
It is human nature to want to socialize, to stay in touch with people who inevitably move away to different areas around the world...but it is unnatural for the internet to turn into another business, another private property, another patent pending type of industrial complex where people have to pay, and get mad because other people can hotlink and cause them more money to pay...the real issue is how we are pitted against each other instead of working together to make sure that no child is growing up in a world where bombs are falling over their heads
chica rebelde, san francisco, ca usa
Jeff D from Dundee needs to do some research. If he wants to block hot-linking to his site, it should just take a couple of code lines.
Mike Taylor, Oxford, UK
I personaly think that my space is a cool thing for people who are both busy and shy as my self, in order to meet people of similar interests without living the vasinity of our rooms.i can class it as the future play ground for young people and old ones alike.how can i subscribe?
I love myspace because it gives you a feeling of self worth. When someone comes by and says " wow u look hott!" it makes you feel good.
KevinKuro, San diego, United states
(I was on MySpace from 2003 until just recently, so I speak with some authority on the subject.) MySpace definitely puts quantity over quality when it comes to friendships, but that pales in comparison with the threat it poses to teen identity formation. With a blank profile, one can create as near an ideal image of oneself as possible, using only one's best photoshopped pictures, a carefully selected list of favorites (as if that's what defines a person), and of course a selected "top 8" friends. Teenagers essentially twist their real identities to create their ideal selves -- on screen. Young users often post bulletins that they've uploaded new pictures or blogs, craving praiseful comments. It basically becomes an electronic vanity-fest. But in defense of MySpace, it really was an effective communication tool until teens below college age popularized it and gained the focus of its marketing scheme.
Dan, Orange County, California, USA
Myspace or any other online community can be used and abused for an array of things. It certainly makes the world smaller. Do some(most) people take there pictures, comments, profiles, and other peoples profiles to seriously? I think so. Anyway it's a cruel deceptive form of entertainment and comunication,but it's addictive and fun. If you're past the age of 30 you should delete your profile and quit lying to underaged girl about your age. P.S. these are the kind of rants that are on Myspace
katherine, New York
Myspace is great for the bands. Hawthorne Heights in the USA and Submerse in the UK both using Myspace to get REAL fans ... Not like those Artic Monkey claims
The trend (for many users) in MYSPACE is this: People first join it, because "everyone" is on it, it is a chance to once again show your face to hundreds of people online. Tell the world about your fav music, video, daily blogging, interest etc. However there is no end to this. Some people get stuck in the phase of trying to prove that they "know" people by having 200 friends on their list. However after few months for some users, maybe few years for others, they delete their accounts, realizing that a public display of photos, location, emails, IM's are potential disasters, unsafe and unnecessary. There are people who while browsing such pages, save pictures of anonymous girls from myspace, and publish it on porn websites using simple editing techniques. Myspace, friendster, facebook are similar social networking tools, (used it for few months) but too bad the internet is unregulated and full of "evil" people out there to misuse technolgy.
Travis, San Francisco,!
My Space has received much critisism as dangerous site and a place for teenages to show off. Sure that accounts for a few. However, out of the millions of people who use it, both young and old, that is not always the case. My space users utilize the space for many reasons, both fun and useful. It has made communication even more convenient. I personally love my space. I do not for the purpose of showing off (but even if I did who cares), but for keeping in contact with the friends in life that I hold most dear, and otherwize might not talk to as often as I would like. I have a grand total of 22 friends. Don't not be quick to critisize my space based on a few. If anything should be done to minimize the dangers of online communication it should be through educating people on precautions instead of banning it all together. With the availability of computers today banning my space at schools and home will do little good.
Elise Hurtzig, Carmel, CA
1) There are programs to keep people from hotlinking your photos... it takes half the time it took you to complain here.
2) why blame the internet for merely existing when your 11 year old kids are allowed unrestricted access to it? You are to blame.
3) myspace is home to just about every music group and popular up and coming artist anywhere on the planet. Check my group page for really good daily music...
Are the responses here staged? The names sound fake and I could swear Pat Robertson is among you!!
4casey4, Columbus, Ohio
I have seen the sites before, thought about joining, then realised that someone will inevitable buy it, use the information on it to make a profit out of your information, which you never consented to give, and decided not to join. Oh look, Rupert Murdoch has bought it to make a profit from your personal information which you had no intention of giving him.
What a surprise.
in my view, myspace is a good idea. Ok its a craze, but whats wrong with that? People need to lighten up.
I use myspace to talk to old freinds as well as make new ones. But that doesnt mean i dont go out and make freinds in real life. Some of you portray myspace users as people reliant on the site to make freinds. As with hotlinking etc, if you put an image on the internet, i think your very nieve to expect no ones going to want to use that image. In fact you should be proud someone wants to use your image. I know hotlinking kills bandwidth but thats the nature of the internet. If you put something online then people are going to see it! Maybe just try and educate people to download the image and upload it to their own hosting before they link to it on myspace.
As an active MYSPACE user I have traveled to 3 continents and 20 countries in the last 4 years. after having met countless aquaintances and great people along the way,I have collected endless e-mail adresses.Despite this, Myspace has eased my way of updating my life to my closest friends and those I metalong the way!from Berlin to Vienna, Sau Paulo to Managua to my home Miami,fl myspace kept me in touch with my mates and friends.I am glad that guy Tom made this site,..i give him props! serge
sergio , Sarasota,FL
Myspace is a awsome place to keep contact with friends, and make new ones! The worry of stalkers does not scare me since I don't havce any pictures of myself on my page. Some people have told me that I should stop using Myspace.com but I don't think I realli could I've made some GREAT friends!
I love myspace! it's the best thing ever created! i can talk to my friends and put new pictures on there and look at old pics, and i get to see some of my friends i havent seen in years! I guess the website is down right now, i hope someone gets it back up really soon!! Thanks all
Jessica s., altus,oklahoma, USA
Quote ' There are no words explaining how retarded this is.'
Ijust use myspace to keep in touch with friends who live far away;not to collect random friends. Its not that big of a deal.
myspace as website is badly designed with various crashes and browser conflicts, but I've met fantastic people through it both localy and further a field.
cragis, Forfar, Scotland
Every time I try to go and have a look at this MySpace my browser just hangs, so I'm guessing that the MySpace crashes a lot and am I misssing something here but is not just a personnal web site provider much like all the free space you get with a service provider. If so whats the big deal its just a phase like blogs. Give it a few months and someone will repackage it rename it and we'll have a new super cool craze to all talk about. I'm with Seb from Plymouth real techology news lets move forward not go round in circuls.
Stace Martin, London, England
Why on earth does this have to be called the MySpace Age? There have been social networking sites around since the early days of the Internet. ICQ, My.Opera, Yahoo, etc. Why does the media feel the need to talk about this one in particular? Oh that's right, I almost forgot who owns MySpace now.
Justin Turner Arthur, Oslo, Norway
I met the love of my life on MySpace just shortly after i joined. I enjoyed searching for smaller, less known bands and listening to their music. It was not long before I found MySpace has many problems. Privacy was an issue as some people would use it to pry into other peoples affairs. I found it to be a very childish place so I soon deleted my account and I have been much happier since. MySpace started off with a nice surprise but now has totally turned me off from networking channels.
Sebastian, London, Canada
I agree with most of the comments about Myspace.But it is called myspace for a reason. It is your space to create and do what you want with it. As an adult I have to be careful how I network myself.Yes there are perverse individuals online....everywhere. Be careful what you display,the persons who are serious about business will surface.Younger online users should be monitored because there are predators out there that are ready for a fool. Do not answer any emails that are explicit,yes it is easy to accumulate alot of friends but some need to remember that there are people on this site that are not musicians looking to be discovered and the only way to do so is to put your face out there.Just be careful how you present yourself.
What I want to know is why people seem to be knocking one of the finest things to emerge from the internet from its inception. Human contact and relationships are sorely stretched in this day and age. If everyone were friends on myspace.com it might help repair some of the damage done due to cultural isolation and mis-interpretation.
Oliver, Kennesaw, USA
I guess MySpace is ok when you don't have all that sexist stuff on it. some people have the grossest pictures and stuff. it's wrong. but lots of my friends and pastors have it but their are not bad. i don't have one though because my parents think it is bad because of some peoples pictures which is true. i don't mind just when it is gross stuff.
Kristine, Frisco, USA
OMG, i also have a myspace site, but i go to a middle school. One day i did a report about myspace and asked all 7th graders to stand up if they had a myspace and if they lied about there age . More than half of the students stood up! I think they should just stop this site because there is so much predators these days!
myspace isn't really bad. i mean what if its the only way to be able to reach your relatives from far away places? myspace is helpful to me but i understand about the pictures and child molesters who enjoy sexually harassing girls who are on myspace. my personal advice is to not give any personal information as to where you live because they can track you down and kidnap you. be careful on myspace. it is dangerous
kelly , Virgina
Myspace and facebook are very popular sites in the US, but it should be know that they can do harm. Because of their popluarity many business are now looking up applicants on the sites and not hiring them if they have drunk parties etc. on their sites. This technice of background checks is widely spreading in the US and will probably shortly make its way across the pond.
"...we were terrified. We have terminated their total Internet access." Do you not think this will make them more determined to explore their sexuality in other ways, and be far less likely to tell you about it for fear of their punishment? At least online they can say and do things through the barrier of the internet - would you rather they went out on the streets posing as 16 and 17 year olds to older men? I'm 19, I used the internet alot as a young teen, using false identities for myself - I got attention this way and it was a form of escaping from the life I didn't like in reality. I rigorously deleted chat records, but my parents must have known I was making up names and chatting to strangers, but they let me get on with it - it was a part of my process of maturing as a teenager. I got over it in a year or two. Banning your teenagers from the internet, in my opinion, will further alienate them from you and possibly put them in more danger as a result.
Myspace can be used by some as a kind of "popularity boost" kinda thing, but from what I see is that most people who use in only have a couple dozen people in their friends list, mostly of people they knew from somewhere else or of bands they like. This use is more along the lines of keeping networked with people who you befriended or have at least close association with such as classmates or past/current collegues. I have even located friends of mine I have not seen in years through the site. It serves its purpose.
Mike, Lincoln, Nebraska USA
I am 17 and I recently joined MySpace, and in fact it has helped my social life quite a lot! Music is a big part of MySpace, and I have since started going to local gigs by small local bands, where I also meet local MySpacers!!
I am a 'MySpace Junkie' and proud.
After watching what goes on on the site, I am also starting my own company which there seems a need for...
After reading some comments though, I do believe there should be a means testing on age, because the site DOES specify you need to be 14 to use it.
It's all about the music.
John Goode, portland, oregon
Myspace is not going anywhere anytime soon. People all around the world have become consumed by it's attractions. Meeting new people from all over, connecting with musicians, artists, poets, students, and just other young people with similar interests or different backgrounds helps myspace users to feel not so alone in this world. Its the best way to keep in touch with old friends, and make new ones everyday. Parents are just now finding out about myspace because of all the media converage, which is the only reason why they are so concerned. But it's for people of all ages.
Raquel, Los Angeles
I've been an avid MySpacer for a few months know, and like Matt Coe, primarily use it to check out new bands.
As for website owners who don't like their images being hotlinked, speaking as a web developer it is entirely possible to prevent this from happening - stop complaining and just google the term "stop hotlinking" - it's really not difficult!!
To the people suffering from "hotlinking" (also more aptly known as "bandwidth theft"): Ask your hosting provider if they have the ability to block such requests. The techie term is to block requests where the "Referer:" host does not match the hostname of your web site. I don't know if many providers do this, but if you run your own web servers it is possible.
Andrew Macaulay, Bath, UK
I think that people who say thats is unsafe are just being stupid, The internet isnt a meadow from the 50's filled with bunnys and butterflys. Its a spider web of knoledge. Thinking that putting your picture up on a website will help people track you down and kill you is utter nonsense. If someone really wanted to stalk or kill someone why bother trying to find them on the internet, they are more likely to kill someone they really know.
I am in agreeable with the parents from Florida. MySpace is becoming a "dangerous" site for young and older viewers. I personally have seen footage of "beatings" from Gang members and other acts of violence. Many teenagers are totally unaware of the present danger of photos being posted and other comments. This is a hotbed for "predators of all kinds".
The CEO for MYSPACE should hire "screeners" for the website. Any content not in harmony with their policies should be denied access to the website.
grandmother from CA, USA, California, USA
NOOO! NOT RUPERT MURDOCH! as a teenager who beleives in free expression, which many people on myspace might agree with, its a shame that someone like Rupert Murdoch owns it, i did nto know that at first, but now it will change my view on the website completely.
Thomas Jack Brown, Stourbridge
Wow. The bitterness that is expressed here shows that the Internet stirs some pretty strong emotions.
The concerns expressed regarding the behaviour of children, property theft and lifestyle choices are not unique to this site nor electronic media and can be tackled by good parenting, legal or technical means and by adopting a "live and let live" attitude.
But then what is it that they say about "arguing on the Internet"...?
its true that alot of teenagers use myspace as a means to show off, but its also a valuable tool for bands and artists to display their work. myspace is fast becoming an unofficial nationwide network for musicians wanting to organize concerts and gain contacts. theres just nothing out there that accomplishes this as simply as myspace.
I never found anything interesting about it. My friends have badgered me continously to join it, until I told them that I had other accounts on other blogsites. MySpace is a popularity contest, as evidenced by the founder of the website, Tom. Every new member that joins is immediately friended by him. Imagine how many people there are, not only from UK, but also from the rest of the world!
Iris, Fremont, California, United States
Personally, I think MySpace is genius! I wish people would stop being so negative about it. Saying you have "virtual friends" is stupid because not everyone who uses the internet for networking is hiding their real identity. I don't hide mine. There's no point to it. I know plenty of teenagers who also think the same. I've already met two or three people, at least, from MySpace and I intend to meet more. Obviously, I'm being careful about it by meeting in a public place with other people, I'm not stupid. I just wish people were more open minded about it because MySpace is a tool for meeting fantastic people! Eesh.
I met an amazing girl from the US on myspace, brought me out of a depression and spurred me on to do better things. I was even lucky enough to meet her last year in June in the US. Best week of my life. We spent christmas in the UK together and we're as best friends as best friends can be. But getting into a long distance relationship can be painfull for both parties. Trust me. Otherwise Myspace Rocks!
To me, myspace is just another form of communication-like a blog (xanga, livejournal, blogspot, etc). It's also handy for university since it can also work as an informal directory to meet other classmates (much like Facebook.com). Although all of my friends are myspace users, I haven't found a compelling need to express myself through other souces other than my blog. My only quip with it is the privacy feature compared to other online groups (i.e. Facebook).
Florence, California, USA
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