To the objection raised by reader extra the woos ("I find this difficult to believe. I would think that Google would have more visits than MySpace, for sure."), MattHawk provides a reason why those sites are difficult to compare: "Google's design is lightweight. MySpace does not even pretend to suffer from this convenience. Google might very well account for more unique visitors, but MySpace makes up for the visitors by having each page view result in a significantly greater amount of bandwidth usage. Not to mention, if Google is working in its optimum capacity, it minimizes page views mdash; if you only load the front page, and then find what you're looking on in the first page of search results, it doesn't generate many page hits."
Before getting deeper into the comments, though, a contribution from reader wh0pper on the same topic of accuracy in MySpace's site statistics is worth considering; thanks to selective data presentation, he writes, the recent ranking numbers could be wrong. "According to Yahoo!, HitWise compared all of MySpace's traffic numbers to only one of Yahoo's subdomains: mail. Yahoo claims they get 129 million unique visitors a month. The article goes on to state that 'the bottom line is that, unless research firms of all stripes disclose the data they use to conduct their analyses (along with their methodologies and tools) taking the 'facts' of these reports — or the subsequent retorts — at face value is not a big improvement over studying steaming sheep entrails under giddy, sputtering torchlight.'"
Not all the visitors on MySpace are actual people, either. Reader micheas wants to know "What percentage of the traffic is bots?" He explains "I received 55 friend requests today mdash; none of them from real people. (Well, I haven't looked at all of them, but the few I clicked on were from profiles that identified themselves as 18-22 single female, and all had lots of male 'friends' they all more or less looked like ads for dating services, promos for bands, etc.) ... It is kind of interesting that MySpace seems to hold up under all the spam, even though they don't seem to do much about it (or are at least losing the war badly)."
Reader l3v1 scoffs at the claim in the originally linked article that MySpace has "[seen] a 4300% increase in visits in just two short years," writing "Like that would mean anything. Anyway, a few more dozen Slashdot [posts] about MySpace and that figure could easily go to about twohundredgazillion percent."
However they're calculated (or generated), the numbers are nonetheless huge. Reader gluecode writes "I speak to the person who runs their (MySpace's) ad servers, every week. He tells me that they average 3.7 billion page views per day. They run a custom version of the Doubleclick 5 ad servers, almost 400 of these servers. But they have a issue of how to monetize this traffic. They are trying to find ways to do that. They have a lot of junk ad inventory. I hear that they are getting very much into the mobile space in the US and internationally mdash; video blogging, photo blogging etc. This way they can make at least two dollars per user month over mobile services. On another note, Microsoft is working with them very closely to convert their server farm from Cold Fusion to ASP.Net 2.0."
Reader Timbotronic comments on the note about switching to ASP.Net: "This is an interesting one. MySpace is written in ColdFusion but actually runs on the .NET version of BlueDragon [ newatlanta.com]. BlueDragon is a .NET (or Java) application that runs ColdFusion code as an alternative to Adobe's ColdFusion server. So what we have currently is a situation where:
- Adobe can't really claim that MySpace is running ColdFusion because it's running in .NET on a competitor's server not theirs and
- Microsoft isn't really crowing about MySpace running .NET because it's written in a competitor's language.
Reader Gord laments for practical reasons the "bandwidth wastage" resulting from MySpace's popularity, writing "MySpace users accounted for nearly 10% (2GB) of my bandwidth usage last month from my general webserving box. Mostly by people using a direct link to a 4MB image for their background image. Fortunately this has been largely mitigated with an apache rewrite redirecting MySpace users to a polite message asking them to stop. However, this leads me to wonder how much bandwidth MySpace is sucking from non-MySpace servers just so users can have pretty background pages and other assorted images. Helping support Rupert Murdoch isn't something I'm happy to waste bandwidth on."
Other readers have their own reasons for negative views of the MySpace phenomenon. Reader eplossl, for instance, calls the site's success "worrisome," because "people don't seem to understand how potentially dangerous this is. Consider the sheer volume of details some people (read: children) put on their MySpace accounts. Parents should police this, but, all too often, they don't. The fact is that this service presents all too much possibility for children to get hurt. Consider also the single women all over who post their info online. Some of them realize that they shouldn't post that they live alone in an apartment in south-central LA, but others would very quickly post this sort of thing. Unfortunately, this again puts people at risk."Reader caitsith01 speaks for many with an evaluation of MySpace as "for the most part intensely narcissistic and inane," and writes "People are presented with a tool for publishing absolutely anything, about any topic they choose. Instead of presenting thoughtful, creative or otherwise valuable content, the vast majority elect to pointlessly ramble about themselves in minute detail or engage in endless back and forth with other users about nothing in particular. Which is fine, but it shouldn't have the legitimacy of other web content. [...] Perhaps it's time to move past the blog hype and to consider some method for differentiating personal diaries (i.e., what used to be a personal homepage), social chit chat (i.e., what used to be a bulletin board, IRC, or IM activity), and publications with actual content. Right now the net is awash with an ever-expanding tide of rubbish and there is very little to assist in finding the few really interesting and high quality publications among the garbage. Ultimately it's depressing that, given the ability to communicate our ideas to anyone on earth, most of us can't come up with anything better than pictures of ourselves drinking too much and mass-produced but ineffectual rebelliousness."
Reader enjahova reacts viscerally to that sentiment, commenting "You are not alone in your argument. You are supported by medieval scholars who decried the rise of literacy, the government of the UK when the printing press was made, and many more anti-intellectual pessimists throughout history. They held your very same belief, what sort of chaos and tragedy will occur if everybody is literate? Peasants are dumb and uncultured, they will only pollute the literary pool. You say the same shit about the Internet. The only difference now is that we have search engines, computers, and instant communication to help us sort through the bullshit. People like you like to ignore the fact that if only one out of every 99 people posting to MySpace creates something worthwhile, that's one more worthwhile thing on the Internet to be found and shared."
NickFortune acknowledges that free-form online expression isn't always of great merit, but also shares a more optimistic view of its possibilities: "Alas, the price of giving people a tool for publishing whatever they want, is that people will use it to publish whatever they want. ... Stephen King once wrote "If you lift weights for an hour a day, you're going to grow muscles. If you sit down and write for an hour a day, you're going to learn how to write". Some of these bloggers you so deride are going to grow into people worth reading.A similar argument from reader Sloppy: "[I]f MySpace is inane, it's because people are inane. MySpace is merely a microcosm. Go out and listen to people talking. At work, at a bar, whatever. You're going to hear pointless rambling.
On a completely different tack... you're looking at what people publish, and maybe not looking at what people are reading on MySpace — what they're getting out of it. That is a lot harder to figure out. What I found, when I signed up, was that it was a way to keep up with my local music scene. In that regard, it has been valuable .. or at least (heh) no more inane than the local music scene itself (which maybe isn't saying much, I can't make up my mind about that)."
Several readers expressed even greater appreciation for the site; playingwithknives, for instance, writes "Im 34; my beautiful, wonderful, amazing girlfriend I met through MySpace is 33; my MySpace friends are all mid 20s to low 40s. Ive met and socialized with some, and romanced a few too and its all been pretty damn cool so far. ... I just avoided the kiddies/teens/emos with a simple age filter on searches and it actually turned out to be one of the better websites about for meeting new people."Content aside, several readers outlined reasons to believe the growth of MySpace is far from over, starting with its ownership. Reader Animats raises an interesting point about where MySpace fits into a broader landscape of media ownership, calling its success a "triumph of 'old media.'"
"Alexa says that the top five sites today are, in order, Yahoo, MSN, Google, MySpace, and eBay. Of those, only MySpace is owned by an 'old media' company, and only MySpace is growing significantly. This may be the first time that a top Internet site was owned by an 'old media' company. (MySpace is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation [ www.newscorp]). It makes sense; MySpace is to the Internet as tabloid journalism is to the newspaper industry. News Corp now has a leading position in both."
Zaphod2016, sees a parallel in the search engine world because of MySpace's current popularity, writing "Recently, Slashdot ran this article about Ask.com's growing market share. CEO Jim Lanzone has complained that his service is superior to competitors', but has not yet approached the market share of the Google-ocracy. The reason? Like Xerox before it, Google has become a part of our common vernacular in 2006 (to google, I googled it, etc). Some expect Google will remain on top for this reason alone, others claim that superior technology is how Google became #1 in the first place, and so, Ask.com has a chance. So what does this have to do with MySpace? MySpace currently finds itself in a similar position; unlike rivals such as Facebook or Friendster (remember them?) their market share is simply in a league all its own. ... With a social network, I must invest a significant amount of time in order to setup my profile, and the experience is dependent on how many friends (or similar-minded people) I can find also using the service. Once I have become comfortable using one service, I might be hesitant to 'start over' at another, especially if none of my friends were using it either."Partly because of that time investment in familiarization, reader LittleBigScript calls MySpace "the new Internet," writing:
"I think you all aren't going to like this, but MySpace is beginning to become what people (under 30) mean when people ask if you are 'on the Internet.' This is similar to when people ask if you have a phone, [and] they mean a cell phone. I saw a movie preview yesterday on TV where it didn't list a website, but a MySpace address. It may be a good thing that your content provider will become a social networking site, so you could look at your content in virtually the same way on every computer which is connected."
One of the most concise arguments for MySpace's success comes from walnutmon, who writes "What I rarely see about MySpace, is what a brilliant idea it is. Not everyone knows how to create a website, but most people have the capacity, and interest to learn how to use MySpace. Instead of looking down on myspacers perhaps those of us who know how to use the Internet should learn how to cater to those who are not technically savvy. Isn't that the idea of selling technology? Making things that normally wouldn't be accessible to everyone accessible?"
Cgenman lays out a similar argument, which could be a manifesto for anyone trying to start an online community: "Basically, MySpace does all of those sappy things that the Internet was supposed to do years ago. The content is all by users. It's all about helping people network with each other. It appeals to people's vanity as well as their curiosity. It happens to have a great underserved niche (indie bands) that tent pegs it even if they aren't the primary users. It's naughty. It's viral.
Basically, put control in the hands of your users, and let them work for the communal site. Find some underserved niche and add features to support their usage habits. Make sure everyone joins. Don't censor interesting stuff. Be a community builder rather than a content provider."
Thanks to everyone whose comments informed the discussion, in particular those readers quoted above.