The outspoken chief executive of News Corp, which bought MySpace for the now bargain price of $US580 million in 2005, said Facebook had “done a great job of being flavour of the month the last six months of last year” but it was not a real social network.
MySpace made more money and its heavy focus on entertainment meant people stayed on the site for longer than Facebook, which was used as more of a directory, he said in a withering critique of the site at an advertising festival in Cannes.
It comes as web metrics firms around the world are reporting that Facebook has for the first time overtaken MySpace in terms of monthly unique visitors.
New ComScore numbers from May show that, worldwide, Facebook raked in 123.9 million unique visitors, edging past MySpace’s 114.6 million visitors. Growth compared to the same period last year was 162 per cent for Facebook and just 5 per cent for MySpace, ComScore reported.
In Australia, Nielsen Online says MySpace was first overtaken by Facebook in April and has significantly extended its lead since then. In May, Facebook received 2.95 million unique Australian visitors compared to MySpace’s 2.61 million.
And Hitwise Australia reported last week that Facebook was now the most popular social networking site, accounting for a 41.88 per cent share of visits “in a custom category of 40 leading social networks in May”. MySpace had a 39.59 per cent share.
But MySpace is still significantly more popular than Facebook among US residents and, with $US1 billion in revenue last year, is probably more profitable. Facebook is a private company and doesn’t disclose sales figures but the Financial Times reported it made $US150 million worth of sales last year.
Watching Facebook’s blistering growth over the past year – which has been most pronounced outside the US – MySpace has moved to mimic a number of the site’s features.
Last last year MySpace rolled out its own version of Facebook’s news feed, which provides users with updates on what their friends are doing on the site. This year it also began allowing outside developers to write applications for the site, months after a similar move by Facebook.
And after many users deserted the site complaining it was difficult to use and encouraged garish, cluttered profile pages, MySpace last week launched a redesigned home page with simpler navigation and less noise.
“We asked people why they didn’t go to MySpace,” MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson told The Guardian.
“A lot of people thought it was too hard to use, they thought it was a music site, or a content site. Privacy was a concern, or they’d say it was a site for teenagers.”
Recent changes to Facebook have been relatively minor tweaks. While MySpace has designs on being an entertainment destination offering users music and TV content, Facebook appears to be concentrating predominantly on being an efficient communication tool.
Also speaking in Cannes, Murdoch’s deputy Peter Chernin, president and COO of News Corp, was more complimentary, saying Facebook had experienced strong growth after opening up to third-party developers and “really galvanised us”.
“We owe a great debt to Facebook for knocking us in the head,” he said.