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
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.)
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