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

4.0 out of 5 stars 27 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.

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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ryan C. Holiday VINE VOICE on July 25, 2009
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 Verified Purchase
I read Stealing MySpace after reading The Facebook Effect, which is an excellent book. After reading the remarkable story of how Zuckerberg and Co built Facebook, I was curious about MySpace. MySpace predated Facebook and for some time had considerably more users. I wanted to learn about how MySpace was founded and why they lost their lead.

Unfortunately Stealing MySpace is a weak book that is not very well written. I learned that MySpace was founded by people who were involved with building Malware and sending spam. MySpace was just a shot in the dark, that took off. But I never got a good feel for the personal and company dynamics. The book was so poorly written that I gave up about half way through.
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This book is long because it has painstaking detail of the path of MySpace from a kluge of ideas to (in its day) the web's #1 site. A small company made its daily money selling nearly worthless doo-dads by making fantastic claims about them. Happens all the time. One employee made a visitor web site where people could become members, then personalize their own page. "MySpace." Rather than the vision of a Steve Jobs, the creator, Anderson, merely made a variation of a few other sites (before Facebook). Over some years, Anderson customized the web site based on user feedback to slow but sure success. MySpace became a gold bar within a company that was used to managing fools gold. Eventually (inevitably), management worked to sell the company, to cash in the gold bar, while keeping the MySpace crew in the dark. The book is excellent for letting us see the players across the years and their very bumpy road.
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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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I got this in 2015 because the title made me laugh, but it turned out to be a really interesting story. It has a good balance of tech and business (I have an M.S. in computer science) without being patronizing. It's not just a lame history of the businesses involved, the characters are pretty well developed. Reading it in 2015 makes some things seem pretty strange, like when the author describes Facebook and how it's growing. This is a great story.
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