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Stealing MySpace
The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America

At one time this title actually made sense. Still, it's a good read about the birth and growing pains of the first big social network.

By: Staff

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While MySpace was not the first website to become accidentally successful, in Stealing MySpace, author Julia Angwin paints a picture of its success being almost a side-story to the personalities involved in its creation. While MySpace is the idea of Tom Anderson, as it grows it's Anserson's and Chris Dewolfe's to lose as first their employer and later News Corp seek to control it.

The book deals mostly with the growth of the two companies, first Response Base, an online advertiser and seller of various gimmicky products (gadgets from China, books on how to get rich quick and the like). Response Base is then bought by eUniverse, a similar company doing e-mail marketing and the tensions that develop between the owners of the two companies as essentially Response Base was bought on the promise of more money if the owners on stayed with the eUniverse though it turns out that Response Base division is actually the more profitable of the two. It's for this reason that MySpace is built inside of eUniverse -- renamed Intermix Media after mounting faulty product returns -- and both helps the new social media website grow and later leads to problems as it becomes the most successful part of Intermix.

The book deals mostly with the growth of two companies: Response Base and eUniverse. Response Base is an online advertiser and seller of various gimmicky products (gadgets from China, books on how to get rich quick and the like). Response Base is then bought by eUniverse, a similar company doing e-mail marketing and tensions develop between the owners of the two companies as essentially Response Base was bought on the promise of more money for the owners if they stayed with the eUniverse, despite it becoming clear the eUniverse doesn't have the ability to pay them and Response Base seems to be the more successful. It's for this reason that MySpace is built inside of eUniverse -- renamed Intermix Media after mounting faulty product returns -- and this arangment both helps the new social media website grow and later leads to problems as it becomes the most successful part of Intermix.

In 2005 Intermix was bought by News Corp for $580(U.S.) and it became part of Fox Media Interactive, a move that solidify MySpace's position as the biggest social network but puts additional negative attention on the company that has dogged it since the Intermax days when was associated with spam-emails. The later parts of the book deals with the changing landscape of the Internet. MySpace had always relied on external websites like Photobucket (which Fox bought 2007), YouTube and a host of developers who created widgets, themes and other enhancements and MySpace's distant relationship with them, compared to then-up-and-comers FaceBook which reached out to developers by providing a documented API and allowed them to advertise on the site- something MySpace explicitly forbid.

Sold on controversy
A lot of the early hype about this book was that there there was some kind of dark secret behind MySpace, beyond some questionable legal dealing of nearly everyone involved in Intermix - Murdoch comes off as the most honest guy here, it's the usual favours and betrayals kind kind of story. Even the titillating rumours of Anderson's interests in Asian women comes off as tame-- and unintentionally hilarious as when, as a result of his unwanted attention on a woman working at the company, he's banished to China to find new products.

MySpace is sometimes called the first Hollywood website – that is one created by marketers rather than technical people – while I think focusing on bands and celebrities (starting with those that could only exist on the Internet) -- was one of their smartest moves seems obvious in hindsight, if they had focused more on these aspects, it might have made the story move faster. As it is, the book is a bit slow reading until the arrival of a celebrity of a short, Rupert Murdoch, shows up mid-way though the book.

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Date published: 08-May-2009

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