Last week Robert Scoble wrote a blog entry about MySpace’s “death spiral”. He said that he spoke with people involved, which he also referred to as “workers inside MySpace”. According to the article it all comes down to two things. Microsoft technologies and being in Los Angeles.
I worked at MySpace for just under two years. Facebook hadn’t quite passed MySpace in reported number of registered users or traffic to the site when I left. My last day was two weeks before their first big round of layoffs.
I don’t believe that MySpace’s “death spiral” occurred as a result of either Microsoft technologies or being in Los Angeles. And this comes from someone who frequently tweets frustrations about Microsoft products. While I was at MySpace I met and worked with some of the most brilliant developers I’ve ever met. Some might argue, “not brilliant enough”. That’s certainly a valid opinion, and I can understand why many people might think that way. But the way I see it, brilliant people often need good leadership just like every other human being. We wouldn’t be people if we had all the answers. Others show us new things and inspire us in many ways. We all strive to learn and do great things and do them well.
Armed with the number of smart, willing people that MySpace was, I think they could have accomplished whatever they wanted. But leadership got in the way. Leadership that was focused on the wrong things, got complacent, and let the market move away from them.
I realize that there was technical debt, and my friend Steve Smith, who supplied a great comment to Scoble’s article, explains the cost of that very well. He also mentions a few other things in his comment that ring very true. But if the task of reducing the technical debt or changing technologies was left to the brilliant minds that I worked with under the right leadership, MySpace would be in a very different (and I believe more successful) position today.
I could take the time to name those that come to mind when I criticize the leadership, but suffice it to say that it straddles senior management like a horseshoe. It goes from the executive level straight to the product level. And that is, arguably, one of the major causes of the reversal of MySpace’s growth.
Regarding Los Angeles, there are countless companies that get their start in this area. For that matter, there are lots of companies that start pretty much everywhere. Sure, Silicon Valley and Seattle have certain concentrations of technical talent, but that doesn’t mean that they have a monopoly on that talent. And I mean that from a technical, client, business, and sales perspective.
MySpace didn’t fail because of a lack of technical talent or because it was in Los Angeles.