Thousands of former Myspace users, who long ago grew up, got Facebook and forgot that Myspace was ever a thing, got an unsettling message from the undead social network over the weekend:
The site is still around, like some sort of digital zombie. And it has 15 billion pictures from a time before the Internet knew better.
“Your Photos are Back!” reads the subject line of the unintentionally (?) ominous marketing e-mail, before going on to promise/threaten “the good, the rad, and the what were you thinking.” (Entrusting our personal photos to an unforgetting Internet? What were we thinking, indeed?)
Myspace insists that the campaign isn’t blackmail; the company merely reached out to an untold number of “current and past users,” as a spokesperson told Mashable, to “re-engage them through a personalized experience.” But however the company spins the e-mails, it’s hard to see them as anything other than a once-great network’s latest, most desperate gasp for relevance. Case in point: If you search “myspace” on Twitter, the results generally fall into two categories: lyrics from the song “Latch,” by house duo Disclosure (one of whom was too young to join Myspace at its peak), and riffs on the theme “Myspace still exists?!”
Remember guys, if you wanna visit Myspace, some of the neon burned out, so you have to type ″Mys ac .com” now.— John Francis Daley (@JohnFDaley) June 1, 2014
Short answer: There’s still a Web site called “Myspace,” but it does almost none of the things that it did when you last used it, c. 2008. In 2011, the site was bought by a California company called Specific Media, and two years later, Specific relaunched Myspace as a kind of streaming radio service/music news site/social network for music fans … complete with a $20 million ad campaign. (Justin Timberlake was, you may recall, an early investor.)
The new Myspace prioritized musician pages and encouraged them to upload songs and videos, which fans could then repost to their own profiles. Soon after its launch, it boasted a library of 2 million music videos and 52 million songs, organized into user- and artist-curated playlists. Myspace even hired an in-house editorial team, led by a former Vice producer, to write up music news and reviews. If you navigate to ye olde Myspace.com today, the homepage looks more like Pitchfork than Facebook: the lead stories, organized in a big, photo-forward grid, include vaguely Thought Catalog-y features like “I stalked Chromeo in my freshman year of college” and “Lucy Hale is exactly what country music needs right now.”
But it’s unclear whether any of those changes actually paid off. As of last October, the site reported 31 million monthly users, most of them “millennials and artists” — including El-P and Pharrell. By comparison, however, Myspace had well over 100 million monthly users at its peak, and Facebook has a mind-boggling 1.28 billion now. This latest marketing campaign — which reads as though the relaunch never even happened — would seem to suggest that new Myspace hasn’t exactly won hearts and minds.
That said, maybe Specific Media is on to something. Nostalgia, after all, is a powerful drug. Perhaps the site can’t convince old users to rejoin for the playlists or the think pieces, but there’s always the bittersweet thrill of the past!
To test that theory, I attempted to log into my old Myspace account — a process that required no small amount of inventive Googling, since I’d forgotten not only the e-mail address and password associated with it, but also the (painfully emo) username I registered at age 15. None of my “friends” have posted, about music or anything else, for years. All of my old comments and private messages are gone; only a handful of baby-faced photos remain.
Presumably, Myspace wanted this rare log-in to serve as something of an epiphany to me, and lapsed users like me: Oh look, Myspace is here! And it’s cool now! I could use this!
But truth be told, even the cool music features feel kind of redundant: Spotify streams free music, Pandora curates great radio, Twitter and Facebook promise plenty of opportunity to follow artists. When all is said and streamed, the only thing Myspace really has on us is those old, unfortunate photos. And it seems like, after more than a year, the site is reluctantly starting to figure that out.