MySpace is a social networking website based in New York City offering an interactive network of blogs, user profiles, groups, photos, and an internal e-mail system. According to Alexa Internet, as of May 2006 it is the world's fourth most popular English-language website and the fifth most popular in the world, with over 84 million registered accounts. Note that the site's traffic volume is based on unusually intense usage by a more limited number of visitors. Many more than five English language sites have a higher "reach" measurement; that is, they are visited by more unique people each day. MySpace has gradually gained more popularity than similar sites such as Bebo, Friendster, MyYearbook, Classmates.com and LiveJournal to become the current English-language social networking website with the highest hit count. It has become an increasingly influential part of contemporary teenage culture. MySpace has 250 employees and projects a 2006 revenue of US$200M.
Prior to the creation of the current social networking website, the MySpace.com domain name was registered in 1998 to an online storage and file sharing firm. Originally launched in April 1999 as FreeDiskSpace.com, its founders, entrepreneurs Paul Hirner and Ari Freeman, changed its name to MySpace.com in 2000. Registration was free and users were able to obtain a small disk quota which would gradually increase if they referred new members to the site. Due to slow service and a lack of revenue, the site shut down and sold all of its users' information in 2001.
The current MySpace service was founded in July 2003 by Tom Anderson (an alumnus of both UC Berkeley and UCLA), the current president, Chris DeWolfe (a graduate of USC's Marshall School of Business), the current CEO, and a small team of programmers. It was partially owned by Intermix Media, which was bought in July 2005 for $580 million by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (the parent company of Fox Broadcasting and other media enterprises). In January 2006, Fox announced plans to launch a UK version of MySpace in a bid to "tap into the UK music scene".
The creators of MySpace have hosted many parties in Hollywood, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, New York City, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Hawaii, and McAllen, Texas to support the site. The headquarters are in Los Angeles, but the parent company is headquartered in New York City.
MySpace is also home to various independent musicians and independent filmmakers who post songs and short films directly on their profile. These songs and films can also be uploaded onto other profiles. Because of the high popularity, mainstream musicians and filmmakers have entered this trend as well.
Contents of a MySpace profile
Each profile contains two standard "blurbs": "About Me" and "Who I'd Like to Meet" pages. Profiles also can contain sections about standard interests, such as music, television, books, and movies, as well as specific personal details, such as marital status, physical appearance, and income. Profiles also contain a blog. A part of customizing one's MySpace is uploading images onto their site. One of the images can be chosen to be the "default image," the image that will be seen on the profile's main page and as the image that will appear to the side of the user's name on comments, messages, etc. MySpace has also recently added the option to upload videos.
There is also a count of the friends the user has, which is followed by a Top 8 or Top Friends. It allows members of the website to select 8 people from their list of friends to be displayed in a certain order as a default on their profile. The Top 8 is displayed in two rows of four.
This feature has been known to cause problems among users from people who are upset about not being on a person's Top 8, or not being placed high enough up on the list.
Users who are good with HTML have for a long while found ways to create a faux Top Friends list.
Below this is the "comments" section, wherein the user's friends may leave comments about the user for all viewers to read. Although comments are publicly accessible, many users leave personal comments anyway, allowing any reader to know their business. Many MySpace users will choose to moderate comments, meaning they must be approved in order to be viewed by the public. Comments, once posted, may then be deleted by the host of that MySpace profile or the person who posted the comment for further editing.
MySpace profile layouts can have the entire look changed with many different editors available from other websites. For example; one can change their "Top Friends" to show any number of friends, or hide the feature. Using HTML and CSS, the colors, background and foreground images, table style, scroll bar style and color, could be changed to suit their preference. One can also add music to their profile either by visiting an artist's page and choosing a song from MySpace's music player, or using a customized music player or embedded media file. There are many people who are making careers out of promotion on MySpace. From bands, to celebrities, to exotic car dealers, many people have found MySpace to be an invaluable tool for advocating their goods and services. There are automated tools known as bots to help aid in increasing ones reach on MySpace. These bots have proven to be effective, yet annoying for many users. These bots are provided by several companies, including iWalton, FriendAdder, and MySpaceMob.
Criticism of MySpace
Terms of Service
These concerns are primarily over this clause in the MySpace Terms Of Service:
"By displaying or publishing ("posting") any Content, messages, text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, profiles, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, "Content") on or through the Services, you hereby grant to MySpace.com, a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute such Content on and through the Services."
News Corporation owns thousands of media outlets, including television and radio stations and at least one record label that could be potential sublicensees. MySpace claims that this clause is needed to ensure that it has the right to host member profiles. However, critics point to many sites , that host content for free that do not require posters to relinquish copyright.
There are often accessibility problems on users' profiles, stemming from the fact that MySpace is set up so that anyone can customize the layout and colors of their profile page with virtually no restrictions. As MySpace users may not be skilled web developers, this sometimes causes some problems. Poorly constructed MySpace profiles could potentially freeze up web browsers due to malformed CSS coding, or as a result of users placing many high bandwidth objects such as videos and Flash in their profiles.
In addition, the MySpace community is growing. New features have been put on the page, such as video and song sharing, through streaming media. The unprecedented amount of MySpace users joining daily due to these new features, and its media publicity, means that more users are online at any given time. This sudden increase in usage slows down the servers and may result in a "Server Too Busy" error message for many users at peak hours, or a variety of any other error messages throughout the day.
MySpace in educational settings
Many schools and public libraries in the US and the UK have begun to restrict access to MySpace because it has become "such a haven for student gossip and malicious comments". Some private schools have even attempted to ban their pupils from accessing MySpace at home.
During the end of May 2006, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana proposed shutting down the site due to moral codes and potential policies which were possibly being broken. They also suggested that the site be blocked due to bandwidth restrictions. Some argue that this is not substantial, and that the over all ban shouldn't take place over all regions, perhaps just problem-some areas. An excerpt from George F. Bittles, Exec. Director, Computing and Technology Services:
"We have recently experienced a growing number of complaints, supported by visual evidence, of students viewing adult content on college-owned computers in plain view of other students, faculty, and the general public. Some of this content is of questionable legality, in some cases described as 'kiddy porn'..."
There lies much controversy in the academic circle as to whether or not banning information and knowledge such as MySpace due to moral reasons is acceptable. Many librarian staff find it offensive in that information is to be broadly accepted due to its innate phenomena. Many argue that it is simply for economic purposes. Many question why funds for the college had not been set forth in upgraded the infrastructure, and that this might possible be a moral issue rather than a substantial "economic" issue.
In 2006, Del Mar Community College blocked all access to MySpace. Network administrators cited network strain from excessive MySpace traffic as the reason for blocking the social network. According to Del Mar's chief of technology, MySpace was consuming 40% of the college's daily internet bandwidth, impeding on the college's web-based courses.
MySpace and businesses
Due to the high use of bandwidth and misuse of the computers in various retail stores, businesses are taking measures to block out the website to prevent customers from using their demonstration computers for personal purposes only. One such blocked site was MySpace Videos, which was blocked from a large collection of networks and universities, for creating an excessive amount of bandwidth usage from videos. Additionally, some routers are providing firmware updates that include the automatic banning of MySpace.
Companies with computers available for public use (like Apple Computer) have sometimes prevented access to MySpace to prevent customers from using excessive bandwidth, although Apple Computer reversed its decision and now allows customers to visit MySpace.
MySpace and professionalism
Chicago Tribune's RedEye printed an article concerning MySpace and an individual's search for employment. It was argued that young college graduates compromise their chances of starting careers because of the content they post on their accounts. For instance, a visitor does not need an account to browse for users using information that is readily available on resumes and applications, such as a zip code and age. A potential employer can utilize information provided by the applicant on MySpace's browse component. Thus, the employer may not hire a highly qualified candidate because he or she maintains an account suggesting rambunctious behavior. Moreover, employees were said to be putting their careers at risk because they maintain blogs that criticize their respective companies and organizations.
MySpace allows registering users to be as young as 14 (). Profiles with ages set to 14 or 15 years are automatically private. Users whose ages are set at 16 or over do not have the option to restrict their profiles, but do however have the option of allowing certain personal data to be restricted to people other than those on their 'friends list'. The MySpace FAQ page does not go into detail about being 14 or 15 in order to have a private page (). The full profile of or messaging someone under the age of 16 is restricted to their direct MySpace friends only. According to the MySpace.com Terms of Service (TOS), lying about one's age to make one's profile private defeats the purpose of social networking and is considered fraud. Any profile caught doing it will be deleted. As an alternative, MySpace.com suggests removing restricted information from public view.
Despite the privacy of young persons' profiles, it is still possible that some may compromise their security and privacy by posting information such as their home address, phone number, or last name due to their lack of experience. This information could, theoretically, put a person in danger. As a result, Fox says that they will post public service ads warning children of those dangers. Also, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has called on MySpace to raise the age limit of their users in order to better protect children by restricting their use. Republican Pennsylvania Representative Mike Fitzpatrick has also introduced legislation (H.R.5319) to ban usage of the site in public places, such as schools and libraries, and to have the power to tap into usage of the website in those places.
Recently, MySpace has had an alarming number of news reports stating that teenagers have found ways around the restrictions set by MySpace, and have been the target of online predators. In response, MySpace assures parents that the site is safe for people of all ages.
MySpace has led to the creation of MySpace celebrities. Popular individuals have attracted hundreds of thousands of "friends". By having this resource, they are able to distribute information regarding their activities, events they are hosting, or projects they are working on (e.g. albums or clothing lines). Though some of these individuals have remained only Internet celebrities, others have been able to jump to television, magazines, and radio. Examples include Christina "ForBiddeN" Dolce's appearance on The Tyra Banks Show and Tila Tequila's cover for Stuff magazine. Furthermore, MySpace's music section has helped many amateur bands progress. This was shown by English band Arctic Monkeys, who can owe much their success to the publicity that MySpace generated for them.
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