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12.15.10

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No Friend Requests

Who in the world would actually buy Myspace?

By Daedalus Howell


For sale: Social network, recently renovated, barely used. $580 million OBO.

In 2005, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation acquired the beleaguered Myspace for over half a billion dollars to complement a media empire comprising newspapers, a film studio and TV channels, including Fox News. News Corporation continued to spend millions on Myspace to capture a finicky youth market, only to find itself groping for relevancy as Facebook came to dominate the social space.

One shouldn't expect Murdoch to understand kids these days, seeing as he hasn't been a teenager since 1950, which not only predates the notion of a mass "youth culture," but its original soundtrack, rock 'n' roll. But the site's current woes go beyond bridging a simple generation gap, and not for lack of trying.

These days on Myspace, one is presently greeted by a video of the Black Eyed Peas pontificating about how they would "rock it" if they "hijacked" Myspace (Fergie is apparently into rainbows). This attempt by Myspace to lease some cred from the band diminishes both the reenvisioning of the site and the musicians themselves, who do their best to inject enthusiasm into the prospect of a "social entertainment" destination with little more substance than their own lyrics.

The whole premise seems nebulous, which is underscored by the fact that the site doesn't even have its own name in the masthead. Rather, the page is helmed by "my_____," which invites the user to fill in the blank. You know, like Mad Libs. Perhaps Rupert's reads "my $580 Million Write-Off."

With its "we beat Friendster" sheen long worn away by Murdoch's fretting fingerprints, Myspace, some speculate, is headed to the bargain bin. An acquisition, however, likely won't make much noise in a social space dominated by Facebook and Twitter. Big spenders like Google come to mind, though it's already in the social space (Orkut, right? No, wait, Google Wave? Um, Google Buzz?). Still smarting after being left at the altar by Microsoft, Yahoo isn't in a shopping mood but is working on its own Twitter clone, Yahoo! Meme. Theoretically, Microsoft could graft Myspace into its search initiative Bing so one could search for friends and find them, well, on Facebook.

Perhaps the best possibility for Myspace is to be acquired by Elon Musk, cofounder of PayPal, electric carmaker Tesla Motors and SpaceX, the independent aeronautics company. Call it "MyspaceX," which would combine all of Musk's business pursuits into the first off-world colony. Recruit the outer-space colonists on Myspace (yes, that's why the sign-up is so damn inquisitive—they're gauging your space-worthiness) and catch a ride on a SpaceX rocket. The colony itself would be powered by Telsa Motors technology since, in space, there are no countries to exploit for natural resources (yet).

Tickets would be paid for through Paypal, unless the underground hacker horde Anonymous launches another denial-of-service attack, which they unleashed upon the online payments site, as well as the respective sites of Visa and Mastercard, after the creditors rescinded service to Wikileaks in the wake of Cablegate.

What's a denial-of-service attack? Ask the former chief security officer for News Corporation's digital properties, Hemu Nigam, who once ridded Myspace of pedophiles and warded off other online miscreants before splitting six months ago to start his own internet security consultancy.

"If you are a home-computer user," Nigam says, "the only way denial-of-service attacks succeed is if the consumers are allowing their computers to be used as a zombie so that it wakes up and turns it into an army soldier at the command of a hacker out there."

To prevent you computer from joining the undead, Nigam suggests you actually click "OK" the next time your computer suggests a security update. "A hacker group like Anonymous will go out there and find computers that are not updated, drop a little code in there that basically owns the computer and that sits there waiting for a command from the mother ship to these zombie computers, thousands of them in all parts of the country or the world, that says 'Wake up. It's your time.'"

Perhaps this is Murdoch's evil plan for Myspace—he's using it to create an army of zombie machines to launch a massive attack on his many rivals. But isn't that what his Fox News is for?

Daedalus Howell has his own zombie army at FMRL.com, the Future Media Research Lab.


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