There's an interesting thread happening on reddit right now, sparked by this post by a soon-to-be-terminated Myspace employee:
For better or worse I am a Myspace employee. Today, Myspace will be laying off 60% of the staff. This comes as no surprise to us or anyone who is vaguely familiar with the recent lack of success of Myspace. I work in the Beverly Hills HQ. So...ask away...I'll do my best to keep this up to date.
There are a lot of frivolous questions attached to the post, but the most valuable question asks, "What are the reasons for the failure of MySpace in your opinion?" The first, and most obvious answer: "[T]he primary failure of Myspace was usability."
Check out the thread on reddit for the full discussion, but here are some highlights:
One thing at MS is its very departmentalized. Not being part of UI or the player team, I did not voice my opinions that they both sucked & instead left it up to those teams to solve those issues.
I'd guess the problem was that the people were using the features. If they were doing surveys, I bet everyone was rating highly the ability to customise their own page. And (some) people do like a high level of customisation. People bitched and moaned at Facebook to allow it too. What they may have missed is a survey of people currently not using Myspace. Because I'd bet that a reason for leaving/using Facebook instead was the clean, elegant look of Facebook, compared to the eye-bleach that most 14 year old girls turned their Myspaces into. People like customising, but they don't like it when other people can customise too. Sometimes, cutting that customisation is a good thing.
It's indicative of what happens when the public makes decisions about how their products are designed: 9 times out of 10 what the public collectively wants is just plan awful. The fact is most people just aren't very smart, and the more you have in a group, the dumber they get. When you have a focus group of grandmas and parents and kids all sitting in a room together, and you ask them a question like "would you like to be able to customize your website?" most of them are going to think yeah, that sounds good! without even realizing what that will entail. The sad thing is, the people who made all those gaudy, flashy, obnoxious myspace sites liked them, but then they all went to Facebook because Facebook let them do what they wanted to do with as little bullshit as possible, and it turns out they didn't really want what they thought they wanted. This should be a cardinal rule for every business: people, for the most part, have no fucking idea what they want until it lands in their fucking laps.
Thanks to Justin Tulk for bringing this to our attention.