In a recent interview, I was asked a question on the minds of many Web professionals today: “Why is MySpace so popular?” My answer didn’t focus on:
- The speed with which the company responds to feature requests from users. Yes, they are great at listening to their customers!
- The fact the site enabled bands to create profiles and included features to help them promote their music. Friendster notoriously banned these types of “fake” profile pages, as they did not represent individual users.
- The ability to customize profile pages with the freedom of “a teenager’s bedroom walls” thereby enabling significant self-expression.
- The need for a "third place" for teens to hang out and be themselves.
Instead I replied:
“I’m going to defer a robust answer to danah boyd who has been studying this space in much more detail than me. But from my rather pragmatic angle, MySpace is popular because someone or something told you it was. With products like MySpace, network effects are key drivers for adoption. More buzz and conversation around a particular product or service always serves to amplify its popularity. In the case of MySpace that popularity is supported by the presence of popular bands and popular kids on the site!”
Having recently spent some time talking to groups of teens that regularly inhabit MySpace, I’m more confident in this “explanation”. Despite having a laundry list of user experience complaints about the site, teens keep coming back with an almost "follow the herd" mentality. Which is a strong testament to the importance of prevalence.