History: The day the music died
Myspace, the “once mighty social media giant,” said it accidentally destroyed more than 10 years’ worth of user data, said Niraj Chokshi in The New York Times. For many onetime users, this prompted an obvious question: Myspace still exists? Yes, barely. In February, the website had about 2 million unique visitors, down from the 250 million that made it “the most visited website in the U.S.” in 2006. Long since overshadowed by Facebook, Myspace was “a formidable force in music hosting, at one point amassing the biggest library in digital music.” Now owned by an ad tech firm, Myspace admitted last week that all its user data from 2003 and 2013 was lost in a technical mishap. That includes 53 million songs from 14 million artists—some of which may have been preserved nowhere else.
The Myspace wipeout serves as a reminder of “the impermanence of the web,” said Hamza Shaban in The Washington Post. Flickr, once the internet’s biggest photo repository, continues to delete many users’ photos. The nonprofit Internet Archive, which is trying to preserve online data in its digital library, “sees Myspace as a harbinger of things to come.” Eventually, the time will come even for YouTube.
Maybe that’s not a bad thing, said Brian Feldman in New York magazine. For some, the “obliteration of one’s Myspace history may come as a relief.” Snapchat and Instagram stories are popular precisely because “they let people make posts without worrying about adding skeletons to closets.” The short-video service Vine shut down two years ago, but there are still plenty of clips and compilations you can find on YouTube. The same goes for most of what was on Myspace. The ease of copying, “remixing, freebooting, and reuploading” internet data has “made it so that anything even remotely popular that gets posted online will be preserved somewhere else.”
We’ve swapped “permanence for convenience,” said Jamie Powell in the Financial Times. We used to assemble photo albums of our loved ones. Now there’s Facebook. But these services “make errors, they fall out of favor, they go bankrupt.” Even if we prefer what we post online to fade into oblivion, all this material is an important historical record, said E.J. Dickson in Rolling Stone. Profile pages on Myspace were “testaments to young lives being lived increasingly online,” the contemporary version of diary entries from the 17th century. For many in Generation Z, “their digital lives and their actual lives are essentially one and the same,” and there is no backup system. The internet is not forever—and, worse, you don’t get to “choose which parts of the internet will linger on in the cultural memory” and which parts will suddenly cease to exist. ■