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Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America Hardcover – March 17, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Book Description

A few years ago, MySpace.com was just an idea kicking around a Southern California spam mill. Scroll down to the present day and MySpace is one of the most visited Internet destinations in America, displaying more than 40 billion webpage views per month and generating nearly $1 billion annually for Rupert Murdoch’s online empire. Even by the standards of the Internet age, the MySpace saga is an astounding growth story, which climaxed with the site’s acquisition by Murdoch’s News Corporation in 2005 for a sum approaching one billion dollars. But more than that, it may be the defining drama of the digital era.

In Stealing MySpace, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Julia Angwin chronicles the rise of this Internet powerhouse. With an unerring eye, Angwin details how MySpace took the Internet by storm by grabbing the best ideas from around the Web, encouraging pinup stars such as Tila Tequila to make their home on its pages and giving everyone freedom to experiment with online identities–including using somebody else’s identity.

Stealing MySpace introduces us to the site’s founders, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, who dabbled in computer hacking, online pornography, spam, and spyware before starting MySpace. Although their street savvy, doggedness, and clubbing skills far eclipsed their tech prowess, they stumbled their way to success and soon found themselves at ground zero of a high-stakes war that pitted Rupert Murdoch against his frequent nemesis, the combative Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone. Angwin sheds light on the dizzying backroom deals that allowed Murdoch to snatch MySpace from Viacom’s grasp even as the MySpace founders remained in the dark about their own fate. Then she takes us inside the Murdoch empire as DeWolfe and Anderson lobby furiously to regain control of their creation.

Venturing beyond the business aspects of the story, Angwin also explores the Internet culture, a voyeuristic world in which MySpace must stay one step ahead of amateur pornographers, sexual predators, and “spoofers” who set up fake profiles (Rupert Murdoch himself tolerates dozens of phony “Ruperts” on the site) and cope with the general excesses and sometimes illegal acts of a community of account holders equal in number to the population of Japan.

In Stealing MySpace, Julia Angwin dishes on the epic real-world battle for control of a virtual empire. In a savvy, smart, fast-paced narrative reminiscent of Bryan Burrough and John Helyar’s Barbarians at the Gate and Michael Lewis’s The New New Thing, Stealing MySpace tells is the whole gripping story behind a breakout cultural phenomenon.

Julia Angwin on Stealing MySpace

Porn. Hacking. Spyware. Spam. Spy cameras you can hide in your shoe.

Prior to launching MySpace, the founders dabbled in all of the above. Relentless marketers and knockoff artists, their story also included a boardroom coup, broken friendships, betrayals, litigation and a pair of feuding media moguls--Sumner Redstone and Rupert Murdoch.

When I stumbled on the history of MySpace, I quickly realized it was not your typical Silicon Valley saga. There were no computer geniuses dropping out of prestigious universities, no fancy algorithms, no computers in garages. In short: The MySpace tale was manna from journalistic heaven--I had to write it.

It was also a serious lesson about the evolution of the Internet. The success of these ragtag marketers from Los Angeles demonstrated an important change in our culture: Technology had finally become relatively easy to use. Innovation was no longer confined to the digital elites. MySpace's success was largely due to the fact that it put its customers first, and technology second.

Still, as it grew, MySpace's lack of tech savvy has been its Achilles Heel. Today, MySpace is being forced to play technological catch-up to rival social networking site, Facebook, and it's not clear if it will succeed.

The final chapter of the MySpace story has not yet been written. But the unlikely tale of how MySpace was born is one that begged to be told. --Julia Angwin

From Publishers Weekly

Angwin, an award-winning journalist for the Wall Street Journal, recounts the history of MySpace.com in this well-written, entertaining and drama-filled chronicle. From its founding by Chris DeWolfe to its surprising purchase for nearly $600 million by Rupert Murdoch and NewsCorp., Angwin takes the reader through the companys tumultuous journey to the top. Readers will learn how Eliot Spitzer's spyware lawsuit nearly devastated the company and how Richard Blumenthal's investigation into the sites lack of protection of minors resulted in a blindsiding public assault. An array of personalities populate the book, including Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, Bill OReilly and Tila Tequila, who was one of the earliest to use her popularity on the site to generate a successful business. Angwin also describes the massive defection of MySpace users to Facebook and leaves the reader to wrestle with the issue of digital identity. Attesting to the depth of her research, Angwin also includes a lengthy notes section. This engrossing look at how MySpace became a media powerhouse will find a solid audience of business history, technology and entrepreneurship readers. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400066948
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400066940
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,310,625 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
A friend who works at YouTube recommended this because he said it was a good example of the differences between the start-up cultures in Los Angeles and the Silicon Valley. He was right and I'm glad I read it. The differences he referred to are going to become important as these kinds of companies become larger parts of our lives. An infamous example at Google was when they ran a series of tests to decide between 43 shades of blue and not only didn't see anything wrong with that but bragged about it. Things like that are windows into the DNA of a company, and ultimately have very big influences on how we consume or experience the internet. In MySpace's case, the book is a good example of how toxic leadership and culture can ruin companies. MySpace's problems stemmed mostly from its origins - it was run sloppily because it was formed sloppily, it was spammy because its founders were spammers and so on. I think the book is a good precursor to what we'll see with Facebook, a organization whose problems are rooted in arrogance, poor strategy and a fundamental lack of understanding of their own purpose as a company. It's rather stunning to think that something as big as Myspace could come and go from the cultural consciousness so quickly. Makes you wonder what we have coming.

As for the book, the writing is so-so, the subtitle is totally overblown and the picture section in the middle makes no sense. It's not a classic business book by any means, but I'm glad to have read it.
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Format: Hardcover
If Variety had a threesome with Wired Magazine and a ColdFusion manual, it would look a lot like this book. It captures a great story of an unlikely internet company (from LA no less) overachieving and does what I think is a great job of walking through the nuances that separate myspace from friendster and a lot of other companies nobody remembers.

I think this would make a fantastic movie as it highlights some over-sized personalities/egos, covers the torn friendships that often happen when startups and $$ are involved and shows how a company can capitalize on a shift in technology (digital pictures/mp3.s + broadband) before most people understand what has happened.
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Format: Hardcover
The book occasionally lapses into excruciating detail on financial and biographical detail, but it's a minor annoyance.

It is the best book on the emergence of social networks that I have read to date and contains perspective and first-person details that you cannot get elsewhere.

It's good to read this book and be reminded that MySpace was initially no more than a "me to" copycat social network, that was underfunded, managed poorly and had to use second-rate used technology and used network equipment for nearly all of its early history. However, the slightly-insane founders worked like crazy 24/7, made some lucky mistakes such as a programming error that allowed users to customize their profiles (turned out to be a big hit!) and used...are you listening? - NON-internet means to help achieve critical mass - parties, networking and road tours.

If you are developing a social network read this book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
What is so valuable about these web properties, anyway? After reading Julia Angwin's "Stealing Myspace," I have a much better idea, and I got some great laughs along the way. It's a pretty quick read, too.

We all know that the development of web properties is filled with peculiar personalities and anecdotes. Not to mention when a site catches on, balloons in value, and is sold. I have never seen as many hilarious and revealing stories brought together in one place as in this book. Julia Angwin's meticulously researched account is filled with life and hilarity, and a good amount of thoughtful comment.

So, what's in it? Well, there's the episode of the only profitable product running through every phase of Myspace's life. I'm talking about wrinkle cream!

Then there's the story of the tactics employed by Elliot Spitzer's office to wrest millions of dollars in fines from Myspace for their role in keystroke spyware. And the fines were well-deserved, believe me.

There are the meetings with Rupert Murdoch, in which you get a real feel for what Murdoch is after and the way he thinks.

What about an ongoing comparison of Facebook and MySpace? You got it, and it's quite pertinent, even to the present day.

There are countless drama-filled episodes relating to portions of or contracts with MySpace being bought, sold, or bid for in complicated ways. I thought this aspect would be boring, but it was not.

And Ms. Angwin, a University of Chicago grad with an MBA from Columbia, summarizes in just a few sentences the pith of a 100-page McKinzie study recommending MySpace's future actions.
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Format: Hardcover
A smart read that digs deep into what makes MySpace unique and why it even matters. Found the "who-dun-it" narrative to be both entertaining (lots of fun, head-shaking anecdotes) and informative (explanation of the industry and the money trail is comprehensive and clear -- even for lay people).
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