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Orkut is booming in Brazil - so much so that Google included it on their recent earnings call. It's provided a toe-hold for them to push other products in a country with a population of 183M.
As far as MySpace, the traffic numbers that they are putting up have been obscene. The difference between them and the "eyeballs" plays of 1999 is that now there are much more sophisticated and low cost tools for monetizing that traffic AND that monetization is coming from the advertising budgets of real companies, not VC funded start ups.
In talking to some of the MySpace guys, one of the neatest things about their traffic is that they are utterly indifferent to search engine referrals. With their users recruiting other users to the tune of 110K per day, they just don't need to worry about optimization, and can instead concentrate on keeping the site fast, and adding in new features.
I'm a big fan.
I think you might miss the point here... the users don't CARE what it looks like. They want what it can do. And it is so much more than a forum. There are true "communities" set up that give them everything from brand new music (the music listings are truly huge) to blogs to event invitations and announcements to...
And, as far as the site design goes, the user can customize their account however they want. The pages they design may look awful, but they're having a blast designing them. Some of these people have never had any training or exposure to web design (and it shows), but this is their creative outlet.
I think that the fact that there are few limits is what is making this site so attractive. Worth $580 million? I don't know... possibly potentially more, since it appears that the user base grows exponentially every day.
As a musician that networks extensively, I can tell you that it is one of the hottest things ever for these bands to market their product. The band listings - with streaming audio (free to them) - have become HUGE!
Just my ten cents worth.
p.s. I don't think the design of this site is all that ground-breaking, either. But, I don't care what it looks like, I just want the communication tools available.
i'm just wondering what ol' rupert will do with myspace. it is a little frightening that one company will have unregulated access to so many teenagers, most of them unaware of who's running the show. i hope we don't start seeing george w. bush ads on myspace like there are on fox news.
then again, i hope myspace crumbles because it's lame anyway. granted, it is cool to hear audio from bands, but it is not cool when bands invite anyone within five miles of their zip code to be their little myspace friend. there are other ways to get your music out there, like playing a lot of shows and talking to people.