With Facebook going public and expecting to receive a valuation of up to $100bn when its shares hit the market, it's easy to forget that just a handful of years ago, Facebook wasn't the only game in town in the social networking space.
And for a time, there was actually another leader: MySpace.
Purchased by News Corp. for a then-whopping $580m in 2005, MySpace was more than just a "place for friends"; it was the social network. Of course, we all know what happened next: it basically collapsed.
MySpace's traffic didn't just disappear overnight, but as far as internet properties are concerned, its decline was rapid. Lured by a cleaner and more functional Facebook and pushed away by clutter and spam, consumers fled the social network in droves.
As it became clear that MySpace was going to be surpassed by Facebook, a big question emerged: could it establish itself as a viable alternative, or was it destined to eventually fail entirely?
Last year, News Corp. sold MySpace to a company called Specific Media. In an effort to bring the 'sexy back', musician Justin Timberlake also invested in the company and was supposed to take a lead role in redefining and redesigning the once-dominant social network.
So how's it working? Apparently, it is working, at least to some extent.
According to The New York Times, MySpace is set to announce that it's attracted one million new users. Already, MySpace COO Chris Vanderhook has revealed that the social network "went from zero signups per day to 40,000". And it's not just signups that are rising; comScore saw traffic grow at the social network in January for the first time in a year.
Perspective is obviously appropriate: traffic is still down 25% from when News Corp. sold MySpace to Specific Media, and many of the new users MySpace has signed up may be joining for the social network's new music player, not for the social networking experience. But that doesn't concern MySpace's new owners. As The New York Times details, "The new focus...[is] not to compete with Facebook as a social network, but to be the conduit for music and other forms of entertainment that can be shared through other networks."
In the coming years, we'll learn if this was a profitable strategy, but for now, given Facebook's dominance, it's probably the most realistic one.