It doesn't seem so long ago that we were lauding the arrival of MySpace and hailing it as the mighty bigger brother to the decidedly girly, and downright childish Bebo (which almost disappeared completely very recently!). This was at a time when Facebook was seen as a contender (bear in mind it launched only a year after MySpace), but hadn't quite reached the dizzying heights of "Facebook is the internet!". So what's changed since then? Well, unsurprisingly a huge amount, even considering it was only a few years ago.
So, where is MySpace now (metaphorically of course)? Cast off in to the vast ether along with Bebo, and the one that only your boss and his mates know about (Friendster)? What happened to the site since launch in 2003, and what of it's apparent demise of late? Well it could be argued that News Corporation's purchase of MySpace in July 2005 (for the sickening sum of $580 million) was the beginning of the end, but let's be honest, the more savvy of us had jumped ship by then hadn't we? Dancing merrily down streets singing "Ding dong MySpace is dead!" Granted, one could declare anything dead and self-proclaim their own almighty Nossdradamus-esque nature, since all things inevitably come to an end, but MySpace really felt like it was in decline. Like a blind man at a urinal, things were getting out of hand.
The sheer nature of people's over-bloated personal pages were surely a factor. Sporting garish, haphazardly copied HTML snippets and infinite re-hashes of the latest internet humour to the point where it became tiresome. Obnoxious blaring of "screamo" music on page-load and inevitably horrendous loading times had already spelled the end for the easily irritated. (em... hi!)
So where were people going to get their social fix? What unlikely receptacle could we all pile in to and start abusing? Cue Facebook: stage-left. In April 2008 Facebook overtook MySpace in the visitors department, and since then MySpace has been re-inventing it's self akin to the inconsequentially pivotal scene in Spinal Tap where Derek Smalls turns to the band and says "Guys... I think it's time for Jazz Odyssey."
So while MySpace is meandering wildly on a Gibson ES-175 with a measly 33.1million unique US VISITORS, not users (And now owned by everyone's favourite pop berk Justin Timberlake) Facebook started amassing users, and for comparison's sake they now number at about 800 million. Currently it's considered "the most used social networking service by worldwide monthly active users" - something that MySpace could only boast back between 2005 till early 2008. In fact, Facebook's statistics currently make MySpace look like a Gary Glitter fan page.
What I liked about Facebook initially was the regimented nature. The design considerations and the almost limiting nature of how your social activity was presented. Concerns about privacy aside, if I wanted to do anything to my page, it was restricted, I could change my profile picture, and that was about it. It was simple to an extent, and it meant that when I visited a friend's page I wasn't struggling to read bright pink text on a black background, or having to deal with god-awful music blaring at me through a player I couldn't find. It felt fresh and dare I say it, almost utopian.
Slowly over the last few years Facebook has seemingly done everything in its power to put an end to that. The restrictions are slowly being removed, and one by one things are getting more and more out of control. Facebook's demise is surely about to begin. That's if it hasn't already begun: Facebook's market growth started to stall in some regions and apparently the site lost 7 million active users in North America in May 2011.
It's scary how much spam seems to accrue on Facebook these days. There used to be very little. The odd invite to an event, the occasional message from a friend, or a few comments on your profile page, but now it's relentless.
It's invites to events in other countries. It's messages from events you've been signed up for and didn't say "no" to. It's countless re-posts of that same picture of a goldfish farting, and thousands of "lol" related acronyms and suchlike. It's the knowledge that every time your "friends" even think about thinking about you, you’ll get a notification, a tag, a nudge, a gift, a message, an invite, a calendar event, a slap, a poke, a shove, a fight, a cavity search, an anal intrusion ad infinitum. It's the masses and their insatiable appetite for the lowest common denominator. All we need is an option to change the background to black, the text to bright green and we're back where we were with MySpace?!
The cycle has continued and I'm fully expecting a new social network of some sort to rear it's head in the next few years. One that appears from nowhere, no-doubt tied to some sort of tedious nerdy-boy-genius-stroke-hero story that we all love to hate, and actively laughs down at Facebook. Zuckerberg then struggles with a couple more redesigns, changes the name to Faceb__k and inevitably loses millions of users to someone with a slightly more charismatic stage presence (and a better haircut). I can see the albums now: "Facebook plays Pat Methaney's greatest hits", "Zappa by Zuckerberg" the list goes on.