I have to admit, although I’m pretty much on top of technology, especially in the social networking sphere (hey, I still have a lot to learn about SEO, but when AOL first came out with its concept of buddy lists, I was in the beta program), there are a few places where I just took my precious time and didn’t sign up. Most recently, the site that had me signing up late in the game was MySpace. It’s really surprising that I even went ahead to register for an account on MySpace, because PCWorld puts it at #1 on the list of the worst 25 web sites ever.
So why the sudden appeal? I’ve long been a friend of Facebook, a far neater and easier system to navigate, not to mention one that is extremely fast to use. I truthfully never think I’ve ever seen the “Sorry, an unexpected error has occurred” message on Facebook, while the MySpace page I am working on right now (for work-related purposes) has been giving me such errors daily.
Obviously, I don’t jump on every bandwagon, as I certainly must have waited two years or so before I signed up for a MySpace account (my friendID is somewhere in the 33 millions, compared to Tom, the founder of MySpace, whose friendID is 6221. I guess it comes down to the whole goal of the site: to socially network. Facebook became big in 2004, which was one year after I graduated college. It didn’t gain momentum until 2005 and still continues to be an extremely popular online hangout for college students, but its restriction on users allowed to utilize the service (initially, college students, then high school students with restrictions, then employees of certain companies, and finally, a recent change to make it open to everyone) probably turned more people away. Furthermore, initially, students were required to possess a school email account. For graduates, it was tough for me to network to people whose email accounts were long expired, and even so, my friends were no longer online on a regular basis where I was able to pester them to sign up.
MySpace, on the other hand, is something different. Anyone could sign up, as long as they are 14 and over. MySpace gives the user more power over page customization, allowing the user to display his/her personality. I guess that’s why there are over 120 million users and over 26 million results in Google for MySpace layouts. I’ll be perfectly honest and say that none of that really appeals to me. For me, MySpace was a way for me to network with those friends of mine who had no school email address or had just decided to join a social networking club that had a broader user base. In that case, MySpace wins over Facebook.
Hey, what about Friendster? I signed up on Friendster first (July 2003), long before Facebook even had its presence on the Internet (for the record, that was February 2004). Since the advent of social networking and Web 2.0 was a rather new concept at the point (the term didn’t even exist until 2004), it never caught on as heavily, despite my own attempts to aggressivly try to get my own friends to sign up and add me (I remember putting up Friendster links in my AIM profile and using it as an away message for months). Oddly enough, Friendster suffered the same kind of slowness as MySpace without the clutter of advertisements everywhere I looked. There were bugs, but they were fixed. Friendster got better. Still, for some reason, MySpace won out.
My guess is that it also has to do with customization: giving your page an identity beyond filling in a few textboxes and clicking a few checkboxes is a necessity for some. I guess I’m not too far off: Erick Schonfeld agrees with me in his blog describing why Friendster failed versus MySpace.
It’s funny that despite the fact that I want to be networked, I still prefer Facebook.