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Lost in MySpace (continued)


Related links

MySpace

A huge social-networking site thatís the fifth most-visited domain on the Web. Can 22-million people be wrong?

Tom Andersonís MySpace page

Clay N. Fernoís MySpace profile

Wild Zeroís MySpace page

A few select MySpace user headlines

Spic wit a big dick

I SUCK AT ALL SPORTS BUT AT LEAST I TRY

A wave is made of other waves

Enormous Erections Abound!

Only bad witches are ugly

Drink Coffee and Destroy

Helping along white male hegemony

Everyone has his passion; i prefer killing people

Love Is The Slowest Form Of Suicide

A few select MySpace "about me" sections

I date a Jewish girl who looks irish and she has three nipples

Well, I love pokemon, its so cool. My day usually begins with a big bowl of pokemon cereal, with the little pikachu marshmellows, theyre very good.

I am 6 YEARS OLD, weigh 10 pounds, green eyes and am very soft. I live w/ my mom in her apartment. I love other cats and even dogs.

According to my manager and my boyfriend Iím a pain in the ass...whatever that means.

Finally, I'm off the medication and ready to party.

I was born with a tail! If I had been born in India, I would have been worshipped as the Monkey God like that kid, instead of having it cut off and scorned as a genetic freak. But such are the vagaries of fate. The worst part is that I can't get angry and change into a giant, golden ape anymore.

I think rock-paper-scissor is the solution for everything

In Order of Importance: Christian, Married, Full-time volunteer Youth Minister, 7th Grade World History Teacher

Champagne and clove cigarettes. torrential rainstorms and track lighting

Interests

legos, computers, woman, back massages, cuddling, sitting back watching a movie

The death of Friendster

Back in 2003, MySpaceís social-network ancestor, Friendster, was huge. Founder Jonathan Abrams had created an online nexus intended specifically to establish and explore degrees of separation. But soon after his San FranciscoĖbased site took off, users started to create faux profiles, or Fakesters, satirizing everything from Paris Hilton to the Citgo Sign to the MBTAís B Line, and Abrams demanded that they be removed. As Friendster staff aggressively deleted the fraudulent profiles, Abrams spent a lot of time bemoaning his users to reporters, even scoffing openly at the "smartasses" who created the false profiles. Abrams had turned against his own users, and they never forgave him for it. By November 2003, Wired published a story about the "Friendster abandonment trend." The following June, Friendster hired former NBC executive Scott Sassa as its new CEO; this past May, after less than a year at the helm, Sassa resigned.

Friendsterís administrators were faceless entities until Abrams started appearing in the press. MySpace, a Los AngelesĖbased company that employs 105, headed in the complete opposite direction. Chief executive officer Chris DeWolfe has his own page (www.myspace.com/chrisdewolfe), as do Kantrowitz (www.myspace.com/kantro), and public-relations hired gun Dani Dudeck (www.myspace.com/danidudeck). And when new users sign up for MySpace, Tom Anderson, the siteís 29-year-old president, is automatically their friend. As of this past Tuesday, the University of California at Berkeley grad had 22,156,290 friends ó nearly the population of Taiwan.

Andersonís ubiquity has transformed him into an e-celebrity, a pretty-boy Craig "Craigís List" Newmark with a Caesar haircut. "When you go out with [Tom] in public, itís unbelievable," says Dudeck, while informing me that Anderson was in Asia and unavailable for comment. "Itís like heís Brad Pitt. Everyone young knows him."

Meanwhile, Jonathan Abrams still maintains a Friendster profile, but he wonít let you contact him unless youíre very closely connected through mutual friends. As the Seattle Times recently wrote, "MySpace.com makes Friendster.com seem as nerdy and useless as Napoleon Dynamiteís brother."

MySpace obviously doesnít want to repeat the same mistakes as Friendster. Users can create profiles for specific projects ó from the video game Karaoke Revolution to Boston-rock ízine the Noise ó and fake profiles are alive and well: Karl Rove has six. The site also prides itself on protecting its users. Hours and hours of educated searching yielded Clay Ferno as the Bostonian with the most friends ó but thereís no way of knowing for sure. When I contacted MySpace to find out the most popular Bostonian, they wouldnít release that individualís identity because it would be "putting the media before the user," as well as a potential violation of the userís privacy.

Earlier this year, the United States made its first arrest for spim (instant-message spam) after 18-year-old Anthony Greco allegedly barraged MySpace users with 1.5 million messages hyping porn and mortgages.

"Advertising is our business, and we work very closely with our advertisers to create experiences that are non-intrusive to the user," claims Kantrowitz. (The private company does not disclose how much it earns in ad revenues a year.) "We donít have pop-ups on our site, we donít have spyware, we donít have banners in too many places. There are specific places where there are no banners."

Itís worth noting that more than half of MySpace is owned by Intermix Media, a company sued in April by New York State attorney general Eliot Spitzer for using spyware (the case was later settled for $7.5 million). Dudeck is quick to point out that MySpace was never named in the suit and that the companies share a different board of directors, a different physical location, and even a different public-relations firm. And MySpace insists that it has never used spyware and never will.

Superuser, not a dork

As with anything this popular, thereís already a backlash brewing. Anti-MySpace groups have formed on MySpace, groups with names like "Fuck MySpace!", "MySpace Sucks," and "The MySpace sucks but I use it anyway" group.

Plus, some users regard random band requests as spam. Others complain that the MySpace server is too slow. And lately, some of the siteís routine functions have been repeatedly "under maintenance," so even something as simple as sending a message can be an annoying hassle.

And some people just canít stand Tom Anderson. Michael Potvin recently blogged a post titled "leave me alone tom." Christina, a buyer at Central Squareís Hubba Hubba, noted her distaste for Tom on a friendís comment section. "I deleted him from my list. i [sic] felt that he was trying to pity me by being my first friend."

Thereís also a rumor circulating on MySpace that the company plans to charge to use the site. Kantrowitz says thatís bunk. "We donít have any plans on charging for MySpace," she says firmly. And then you have Rupert Murdoch this week announcing his plans to buy the site.

Kantrowitz also says the company isnít worried about being a fad. "Thereís always going to be your early-adopters who feel, ĎItís too big for me to be on,í but at the end of the day, if their life is so weaved into it they may not be leaving so quickly. And remember, at [22] million users, youíre way beyond the early-adopter stage."

For his part, Clay Ferno isnít sick of MySpace. If anything, heís fully embracing his dependency. When Fernoís cell phone recently got shut off, MySpace was the best way to reach him. Then he started a MySpace group for "MySpace Superusers"; his first post to the eight-person community was: "Now, tell me what makes YOU a superuser. And not a dork."

When I discovered that Lost City Angels frontman Drew Suxx, another self-described "MySpace addict," had just a few more friends than he, Ferno freaked. "Ack. Impossible," said Ferno of his friend, whoíd just left town to play on the Warped Tour. "Iím going to kiss his girlfriend while heís on tour."

Exactly one week later, Ferno had 333 more friends.

Camille Dodero can be reached at cdodero[a]phx.com. Clay Fernoís band, Wild Zero, will make its debut on Saturday, August 13 at the Middle East downstairs with Victory at Sea + Helms+ Certainly Sir + Count Zero + Tiny Amps | 480 Mass Ave, Cambridge | 617.864.EAST.

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Issue Date: July 22 - 28, 2005
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