Fakesters

Thoughtful critical piece by Wade Roush about the ‘monetization’ of MySpace…

While MySpace’s bad rap as a haven for sexual predators is probably undeserved, there’s good reason to be disturbed by the site: it is devolving from a friends’ network into a marketing madhouse.

If any social-¬≠networking company has found a way to rake in cash, it is MySpace; for example, Google recently agreed to pay $900 million for the exclusive right to provide Web searching and keyword-based text ads on the site. Of course, targeted advertisements distributed by Google and other companies provide the revenue that keeps many Web-based businesses afloat. But MySpace’s venture into consumer marketing has gone far beyond traditional advertising. The site has given members the technological tools to “express themselves” by turning their own profiles into multi¬≠media billboards for bands, movies, celebrities, and products. Think MTV plus user photos, bulletin boards, and instant messaging.

I realize that in criticizing a pop-culture mecca frequented by millions of people, I risk sounding just as out of touch as DOPA’s supporters. But after spending the last few years chronicling the emergence of social networking and other forms of social computing for this magazine, I had higher hopes for the technology. To me, the popularity of MySpace and other social-networking sites signals a demand for new, more democratic ways to communicate–a demand that’s likely to remake business, politics, and the arts as today’s young Web users enter the adult world and bring their new communications preferences with them. The problem is that MySpace’s choice of business strategy threatens to divert this populist energy and trap its users in the old, familiar world of big-media commercialism…