It’s been about a decade since I did my last book review for the Washington Post, of a Marshall McLuhan biography, so it was time for a return engagement, I guess! Yesterday’s Post featured my review of Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin’s new book on the story of MySpace. (Here’s the book’s site.)
The book is very thorough, dogged business reporting, worth reading if you want to know about MySpace’s origins in the murk of the Web’s direct-marketing demimonde or if you’re interested in the corporate maneuvering around Rupert Murdoch’s 2005 acquisition of the company. It offers only some brief glimpses of the culture of MySpace, though, and I think MySpace is more interesting for the vast panorama of human behavior it provides than for its limited innovations as a Web company or for the ups and downs of its market value. Here’s the review’s conclusion:
Angwin tries to cast MySpace as “The first Hollywood Internet company” — freewheeling, glitzy, “where crazy creative people run the show” — in contrast to what I guess we’d have to call the Internet Internet companies, like Silicon Valley-based Facebook, where programmers rule the roost. But that’s a bit of a false distinction: Programmers can be crazily creative people, too, and plenty of creative types have learned to master technology. (See, for example, Pixar.)
You can’t help getting the impression from “Stealing MySpace” that MySpace’s founders, however smart and dogged they may have been, were also opportunists who simply got lucky. That leaves us wondering about the wisdom of Murdoch’s acquisition. Facebook surpassed MySpace long ago in innovation, buzz and, more recently, actual traffic, according to some tallies. It has thereby stolen MySpace’s claim to being “most popular” and rendered Angwin’s subtitle obsolete.
Sic transit gloria Webby. Was Murdoch’s purchase of MySpace a savvy coup or just a panicked act of desperation, like Time Warner’s far more costly AOL mistake? It will take at least a few more years before we know for sure. By then, no doubt, both MySpace and Facebook will have been elbowed aside by some newcomer nobody has heard of today.
- August 4, 2010 @ 12:34:06 [Current Revision] by Scott Rosenberg
- March 16, 2009 @ 22:18:44 by Scott Rosenberg