MySpace's Sync With Facebook is a Smart Surrender

Last Updated Aug 31, 2010 8:34 PM EDT

MySpace announced yesterday that it will "sync" with Facebook, sharing updates on user activity. Because this sharing only runs one way, many see this as just another sign of the fading network's surrender to its dominant rival.

But the truth is the two sites have been growing into very different animals. By syncing with Facebook, MySpace at least has an opportunity to solidify its role as the premier platform for artists and their fans.
Mark Zuckerberg has always insisted on radical transparency, and strives for a clean, minimal aesthetic on Facebook. In terms of social networking, these principles led to Facebook's domination. People wanted to be able to connect with confidence to friends and family using their real names. And the site's simple layout made it accessible to users of all ages.

MySpace is all about personality. It's a big part of what drives the fan communities there. Users can adopt stage names and modify their profiles with graphics, interactive elements and unique layouts. This colorful atmosphere, along with the important fact that MySpace let users host music, made it the destination of choice for bands earlier on.

But as Caroline McCarthy points out over at CNET, MySpace's success with bands is now threatened by Facebook's Fan Pages. Yesterday's integration is an attempt to protect that niche. "This is particularly exciting for artists who can now use this tool as a complement to their MySpace Music presence and share their vast library of content, including full album catalogs, to people who've liked their Facebook Page," says Jennifer Ruffner, MySpace's director of product.

MySpace is actually deeply woven into the Facebook Fan Page system already. iLike, the most popular application for hosting music on Facebook by far, has been a wholly owned subsidiary of MySpace since September, 2009. But that integration hasn't stemmed the loss of traffic to MySpace, which is what really matters when it comes to ad revenue.

Syncing with Facebook is the site's best opportunity to get back in the big conversation and drive traffic for exclusive premiers from major artists, many of whom still use MySpace to launch new material. At this point, reversing a downward trend in users is way more important to the site than trying to reclaim the social networking throne.

Image from Wikicommons
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  • Ben Popper

    Ben Popper writes at the intersection of culture and technology. His work has been published in the NY Times, Washington Post, Fast Company, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic and many others. He lives at www.benpopper.com.

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