Never mind that MySpace is stupid, and that Facebook is for people who don’t have real websites. And never mind that if you don’t like ads on the internet, YOU CAN BLOCK THEM. Ad-blocking is not new or surprising. I’ve been using it on every computer we own for at least the past six years. Some people still argue that using an ad blocker on your web browser is ethically tantamount to stealing. They are wrong. But Businessweek seems to simply ignore the whole phenomenon:
Trouble is, the boom isn’t booming anymore. . . . [M]any people are spending less time on social networking sites or signing off altogether. The MySpace generation may be getting annoyed with ads and a bit bored with profile pages.
It’s my screen. My eyes. My internet connection. I have every right to exercise absolute control over what content my computer displays. The minute that a corporation or a web host crosses the line from respectful, unobtrusive advertising to flash-based or animated gifs, I block all of the ads on their site. And this is a one-way street to 100% ad-free: I’m never going to unblock, and all of those blocks apply to every other site I visit.
Businessweek ignores this fact and blames the ads for driving people away. I think the user churn they’re describing is a deeper issue with the market: MySpace and Facebook are reaching the saturation point. The problem they’re missing is that MySpace is the AOL of this decade, full of users who are ignorant about their options and just don’t know any better. It’s training wheels for the internet. But as AOL has demonstrated so convincingly, once people realize that there is a better option they abandon the training wheels and move on.
MySpace is a success because they’ve used viral marketing and peer pressure to attract lots casual web-surfers who are unsophisticated about their internet use. Unfortunately, as new users become more sophisticated, they realize that MySpace is a waste of time. Users who were already sophisticated at the time MySpace was introduced have either simply ignored the site, or joined and then abandoned in favor of venues that provide more interesting and meaningful interactions. People only have so much time to spend online, and eventually people begin to realize that pictures of intoxicated teens vomiting on each other just aren’t very entertaining.
If Businessweek honestly doesn’t get that, it’s no wonder they don’t understand anything about the dynamics of internet social networks.
[updated to repair link on 7/22/209]
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