What Happens When Social Media Environments Die?

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Despite supposedly having millions of users (to Facebook’s 3/4 of a billion), social networking pioneer MySpace appears to be headed out to pasture. Last week, the company laid off 47 percent of its workforce, lopping off 500 employees from its nearly 1,100-person payroll. Rumors that MySpace’s parent company News Corp. wants to sell are all over the tech and mainstream media. (see Link)
This is despite a widely publicized “redesign” intended to focus the site on “social entertainment.” (Link)

Assuming the redesign doesn’t provide the boost News Corp. (or a potential buyer) would be looking for, what will happen to all of the material on users’ MySpace pages if the service shuts down? A similar question faced users of Second Life’s Teen Grid when Linden Labs announced that portion of the virtual world would be shut down. (See Link).

But closing down Teen Grid doesn’t come close to the scale of shutting down MySpace. If done right (i.e.,
with plenty of notice and providing members a user-friendly option to export content), the passing of this early social media icon could be the model of the right way to wind things down.

The idea that a social media platform with millions of members (and millions more still joining),
could “go gently into that good night” should serve as a warning to those investing time, energy and money into virtual assets – if you’re on someone else’s platform, and you’re not big enough to get anything other than their standard user agreement, you need to plan for the day when your platform could turn off.