Two articles in recent weeks have painted very different pictures of MySpace, the NewsCorp-owned website phenomenon which has grown to become more popular than Yahoo! in less than five years. Fortune’s Patricia Sellers produced a glowing history of MySpace and its founders, the roguishly handsome Tom Anderson (who is everyone’s first “friend” when they sign up to MySpace) and MySpace CEO, the “polished” businessman, Chris DeWolfe. Sellers’s article provides an interesting background to the business, which was purchased by NewsCorp last year for US$580 million and now signs up more than 230,000 new members every day. Since NewsCorp’s bought MySpace, it has since signed up Google to a US$900 million advertising deal.

The second article is a little less complimentary, so much so that NewsCorp allegedly threatened legal action to prevent its publication. That didn’t stop Valleywag, which has been described as “Silicon Valley’s resident gossip”, from buying the article and printing the allegations constructed by journalism student Trent Lapinski. Lapinski’s expose makes a number of starting allegations against MySpace, which, while ostensibly well-known in internet circles, contradict the image portrayed by Fortune. Most notedly, Lapinski claimed that MySpace was not really founded by the handsome Tom Anderson, but rather:

“MySpace was actually created by executives whose backgrounds are anchored in spam and mass marketing, and who are tied to investment scandals. With his almost alternateen good looks, Tom Anderson has served as an exceptionally convincing distraction … The real genius of MySpace lies in its re-imagining and repackaging of spam. While most internet users expend time and energy attempting to keep it out, MySpace is spam that they actually invite in.”

Lapinski then alleged that the company which created MySpace is headed by the same “marketing and entertainment company known for sites like skilljam.com, pop-up advertising, unsolicited mass emails, Spyware, and the ad ware behind controversial peer-to-peer file sharing network Kazaa.”

Lapinski also claimed that DeWolfe was a business associate of Andrew Wiederhorn, who in 2002, served a 13-month jail sentence for felony and that he allegedly used the 50 million-strong email list of spammer eUniverse to promote MySpace.

While Lapinski’s allegations seem damning, they are certainly not universally supported. In Crikey-esque fashion, Valleywag itself printed a string of critical posts attacking Lapinski’s conclusions. One post even noted that the expose “failed to demonstrate anything except the youthful nature of its author.” Whether right or wrong, Lapinski has produced an interesting account of the brief history of one of the world’s most popular websites. By the sounds of it, it certainly won’t be the last investigative piece written about the MySpace phenomenon.

Peter Fray

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