What Ever Happened to Everyone’s Friend MySpace Tom?

Tom Anderson, better known online as MySpace
Tom, was, for a brief period in the early 2000s, arguably the most popular man on the
internet. Boasting over 200 million friends at the apex
of MySpace’s popularity, Tom was everybody who signed up to use the site’s first, but
hopefully not only, friend. So what is he doing now and why was he everyone’s
friend? To answer the latter, well, if you want to
be everyone’s friend, helping to found the website is a good way to make that happen. Created in 2003, MySpace was a direct response
to Friendster, an early social networking site that has since faded into obscurity,
though at its peak had several million members and was turning down dozens of millions of
dollar buyout offers from companies like Google. In early 2003, while working for a company
called eUniverse, Tom lamented that Friendster took a heavy-handed approach to so-called
“Fakester” profiles belonging to people pretending to be fictional characters, or
satirical accounts from people pretending to be celebrities, etc. Tom felt Friendster’s policy of summarily
deleting these was a mistake, reasoning that the internet of all places should be a forum
people felt comfortable expressing themselves in any way they chose. In a later interview, Tom waxed poetic about
the nature of personal identity, musing, “Identity is provisional. Who we are is whom we choose to be at any
given moment, depending on personality, whim, temperament or subjective need.” With this in mind, Tom approached his friend
and eUniverse boss, Chris DeWolfe, with a simple proposal- launch a site that basically
aped everything Friendster was doing, but not be as stuffy or uptight about users calling
themselves Noir Angel or Dark Blade 69 or taking on any persona they chose. DeWolfe agreed with Tom that this could potentially
be a lucrative venture and the pair quickly set about finding a name for the site. According to Tom, early ideas for what to
call the website included both YoPeeps.com and Comingle.com, before DeWolfe remembered
that he had previously acquired the domain MySpace.com from a data storage company YourZ.com,
Inc. that had gone out of business. As for why MySpace took off and the then wildly
popular Friendster went the way of the Dodo, the ultimate success of the site is generally
largely attributed to a combination of good timing, the duo’s business acumen, their
experience and resources in the field, and plain old dumb luck. As an example of the latter, when coding the
website, they committed a cardinal sin in software engineering in forgetting to properly
sanitize their inputs. Or, in other words, they accidentally allowed
users to insert HTML tags and the like into their pages. A huge potential security risk, this nonetheless
meant that users could customise their profile pages in almost any way they wanted- people
loved this (at first). When this snafu was discovered, while steps
were taken to mitigate some of the security problems this could have introduced, Tom and
DeWolfe came to appreciate how allowing users to do this fit into the site’s ethos of
letting people express themselves any way they wanted. As a result, rather than fully fixing the
bug, in a great example of textbook software engineering ethos, they rebranded the bug
a feature. As for the duo’s business acumen and experience,
they not only were able to create a system that performed much faster than Friendster’s
notoriously slow site, but also embarked on a 17 city nightclub tour to woo hot women
to their platform via having professional photographers take free glamor shots of the
ladies in exchange for said women joining up. Naturally, where attractive women are online,
the men of the species inevitably flock like the salmon of Capistrano. On top of that, they traveled around attempting
to get bands to sign up on the platform, ultimately convincing over 5,000 such groups to join
up in the early marketing blitz days. These bands, in turn, encouraged their fans
to check out their MySpace pages. As DeWolfe put it at the time, “We want
to be the MTV of the Internet”. Towards this end, they even eventually implemented
features to allow musicians to upload and sell their music through the site. (This strong connection to music is still
one of the ways MySpace survives as a surprisingly well trafficked site even to this day, ranking
in around the 3800th most popular site in the world and around the 1900th most popular
in the United States. While those might seem like unimpressive numbers
to the uninitiated, that likely means MySpace is still getting several million unique visitors
per month. Which, well…) On top of those in-person member acquisition
methods, the pair also leveraged access to their day job at eUniverse’s 20+ million
strong email address list to promote the site. That said, the biggest initial marketing payoff
came from wooing several of Friendster’s most prominent users over to MySpace. The biggest of these was the now somewhat
infamous social media personality Tila Tequila, who noted of her social media fame at the
time, “There’s a million hot naked chicks on the Internet. There’s a difference between those girls
and me. Those chicks don’t talk back to you.” At the time, Tequila had approximately 40,000
friends on Friendster. Besides being fed up with how slow Friendster
was, Tequilla also kept getting in trouble on the site for her risque photographs and
larger than life confrontational/controversial public persona. Reaching out to her, Tom and DeWolfe convinced
Tequila that she’d have no such problems on their new social media site. She, thus, jumped ship to the new platform. Tequila’s impact on the site’s growth
was felt immediately and, soon after, other major online personalities followed her lead. As Tequila herself would later note in an
interview with Time magazine: At that time no one was on there at all. I felt like a loser while all the cool kids
were at some other school. So I mass e-mailed between 30,000 and 50,000
people and told them to come over. Everybody joined overnight. Oft called “The Queen of MySpace”, during
the site’s heyday Tequila had around 1.5 million friends on the site, which, while
impressive, was nowhere near the 200+ million Tom had during MySpace’ reign at the top. And for those who missed out on that era,
despite Facebook being founded in 2004, from about 2005 to 2008 MySpace was indeed on top,
including for a brief time in 2006 even becoming the most visited site on the internet, edging
out Google for that honour. And, amazingly, in 2008 MySpace generated
nearly a billion dollars in revenue, valued at some $12 billion at that point. (As an interesting aside, in February of 2005,
DeWolfe even turned down Mark Zuckerberg’s offer to sell Facebook to MySpace for a mere
$75 million… It’s also fascinating to note that Friendster
likewise turned down an offer to merge with MySpace not long before Friendster’s ultimate
decline into oblivion.) In any event, as to why Tom was automatically
added as a friend on MySpace, this was partially a way to ensure everyone had a friend right
from the start but, much more importantly, this was a way to introduce some of the friend
management features to newbies, like the “Top 8” which allowed users to sort their friends
in order of who they liked most. As any of us who lived through it remembers,
this was a hugely popular feature that led to an amazing amount of teenage angst and
drama. Although users were free to immediately unfriend
Tom if they felt like it, most didn’t, making him, for a brief window in the 2000s, one
of the most recognizable people online. In regards to Tom’s now iconic profile picture,
Tom continues to use it across his current very prominent social media profiles, despite
the picture being around a decade and a half old at this point. On Facebook- yes, we’re quoting a Facebook
post written by the co-founder of MySpace- Tom noted that while his name Tom Anderson
is “pretty generic”, his MySpace profile picture is so iconic that most internet savvy
people recognise it almost instantly. Furthermore, in a tweet (and now we’re quoting
him from Twitter- some people just like to watch the world burn), Tom replied more succinctly
to a fan asking why he still used the same profile picture: If I used a new profile picture it would break
the internet; my pic has been viewed more than the mona lisa bitch You might now be wondering if that’s actually
true. Well, probably not, and definitely not if
you level the playing field to include digital copies of the Mona Lisa. However, if you restrict the sample-set to
the number of people who’ve seen the original, physical Mona Lisa since the debut of Tom’s
profile pic, then, yes, though, as noted, that’s hardly a level playing field. Nevertheless, for reference, the Louvre gets
about 7-9 million visitors per year in modern times. Even if everyone who has gone in the 21st
century took a gander at the Mona Lisa while there, that’s still at best maybe 120-ish
million people viewing the painting, which doesn’t hold a candle to Tom’s profile
pic’s unique viewer numbers. We do, however, like to think several hundred
years from now “The MySpace Tom smile” is something that will be studied by historians,
with the profile pic featured at digital museums the world over- no doubt a centerpiece of
internet history sections of the museums. I mean, those perfect teeth, and the way his
eyes seem to follow you no matter what angle you look at the picture from… What’s he smiling about anyway? Did someone make a joke? Is he just naturally photogenic? Who took the photo? Adding to the mystery and presumably infuriating
future historians, Tom is quite secretive about the origins of the photograph when asked. In any event, beyond not wanting to “break
the internet”, a secondary reason that Tom has never changed his profile picture is that
it looks almost nothing like him today. You see, paradoxically for a man who once
had 200+ million online friends, Tom is a pretty private person and he’s noted that
he’s very happy that the most well-known photo of him in existence isn’t all that
representative of how he looks most of the time. In an interview with PetaPixel Tom further
explained: “I’m always amazed that someone can recognize me from that picture. Its kind of been a benefit that people don’t
really know what I look like… I get recognized just enough for it to be
fun and not disruptive.” Which is actually pretty genius and something
we’ve written about before when discussing Daft Punk. To summarize a point we made in that article,
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter adopted their robotic alter egos early in
their career partly so that they could enjoy fame without having to deal with the inevitable
downsides that come with it, such as being constantly accosted by fans or followed by
the paparazzi. This all brings us around to what Tom’s
up to now. It turns out, Tom has a bit of an obsessive
personality about whatever he’s currently doing, with those interests being quite diverse. As he notes, “I’ve lived many lives, so
to speak. At one time I was in a band (both as a singer
and guitar player) and that was all I did every day. If you knew me in college, you would have
assumed I was going to be an egghead professor…. I like change. I like the idea that anything can happen…” What he doesn’t reveal there is that before
all that, at the tender age of just 14, he spent his days hacking, going by the name
Lord Flathead. Most famously, he managed to hack into Chase
Manhattan Bank’s mainframe. Not as exciting as movies depicting such things
make out, he reportedly managed this by simply war dialing and then, when the system responded,
he was eventually able to guess an administrative user name and password correctly. Once in, beyond sharing this information with
a few dozen hacker friends, he also changed a couple passwords to stop certain bank officials
from being able to access the system and, at least according to a contemporary New York
Times article, created a few accounts of his own, then left a message for bank officials
that he was going to start deleting financial records unless they let him use the computer
for whatever he wanted… Unsurprisingly, soon after there was an FBI
raid of some 23 homes in the San Diego area where Tom lived. Initially thinking they were about to make
some major hacker arrests, what the FBI found was a bunch of young teens just playing around. Because Tom was so young, the FBI and Chase
Manhattan Bank let him off with a simple slap on the wrist- taking away his computer and
never returning it, as well as making him promise to stop his black-hat hacking ways
lest he be arrested. Much more recently, after spending four years
serving as the president of MySpace when NewsCorp acquired the site for over a half a billion
dollars in 2005, Tom basically retired in 2009. He even ceased using MySpace at that point,
posting on Facebook, “I don’t like using it anymore… not a fan of what the new folks
have done with MySpace.” (You and me both, Tom.) At this point you might be wondering exactly
how much Tom made from selling his stake in MySpace. Well, this isn’t clear, with sources wildly
conflicting on the amount- quoting numbers everywhere from a few million dollars to a
few hundred million. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say even
if it was $0, thanks to his salary after the NewsCorp acquisition- which included an initial
$30 million, two year contract- after Tom walked away from the site, he hasn’t had
to worry about money. Tom himself sheds a little light on the matter,
stating, “When MySpace sold, I made more money than I could ever possibly need”. Following his quasi-retirement, Tom notes
he spent a lot of time “learning about architectural design.” He goes on, “When I left the work world,
I started designing my dream house. I dived into architecture and bought seven
vacant lots. My plan was to build one house, move in, and
build the next. If the next was better, I’d move in and
sell the previous one – so on and so forth”. He designed and had built three homes before
his passions went another direction, which leads us to present day in which Tom spends
most of his time with a different obsession- travel photography. While he does not sell his photos as, to quote
him, “that would just feel like work, which I don’t want to do”, it’s still something
he pursues full time. This is a profession he was inspired to start
after attending Burning Man in 2011. In his own words: I became friends with photographer Trey Ratcliff
and since I was going to hang out with him at Burning Man, I decided to get a camera. I didn’t really develop an interest until
I saw the photos I was getting. In other words, I didn’t think “I want
to be a photographer.” I just saw the photos that were coming out
of my camera and I was kind of blown away. I was mystified why I was liking what I was
getting so much. With most creative pursuits, I would struggle
for years and still not like the result. With photography I was liking what I was producing
literally from day one. Then gradually it just became a way of life
and now an intense passion… I’ve divested myself of all other responsibility
so I can just travel and shoot. Or to put it another way, like most of your
friends from MySpace who had way more friends than you, he’s today spending most of his
time taking artsy photos for Instagram. And, actually… wow. Unlike most of those aforementioned former
MySpace friends, he’s got some pretty ridiculously amazing shots over there, which can best,
I think, be described as Top Shelf Travel Porn… Nothing halfway, eh, Tom?

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100 thoughts on “What Ever Happened to Everyone’s Friend MySpace Tom?

  1. Now that you know what happened to MySpace Tom check out this video and find out about Jerry Lewis and the Crying Clown:

  2. Fucking aye. A 14 minute video about “what Tom is doing now” that spends like 12 minutes talking about MySpace’s fucking history and random Tom trivia, and barely a minute or two on what he’s, y’know, FUCKING DOING NOW!!

  3. I believe he made hundreds of millions of dollars for selling Myspace and then bought millions of shares in Facebook

  4. MySpace was so cool. Wish it would make a comeback. I used to love my profile and the option of having your favorite song on your profile.🥰

  5. Dude. You take so fucking long to explain the stupidest questions. You could use one sentence to explain your shit. Use a paragraph at most. You bastard.

  6. Man, I never had myspace, was around when it was online but never made an account. Sounds like the site had a good fun run

  7. Good old Myspace days, perhaps we should all go back to it🤣
    Great video as usual, I love listening to Simon's voice.

  8. Ok so I like your videos but you get off topic quite a bit and it makes me lose interest halfway in the video. Just feedback.

  9. Long live MySpace and the 56th st. Clandestine Coalition… feat. Chester Wardan, jitterbug jack, and vampy… rip Aj aka c-kane aka darby

  10. MYSPACE was the Golden Age of social media/internet! Back in the days of NAPSTER being the FREE MUSIC Mecca! And you being able to watch ANY Movie, TV Show or WHATEVER on an Uncut! Uncensored! YOUTUBE! Damn I miss those days! We'll never have it that sweet again!

  11. The ad that began playing while waiting for your video to start was of hunters shooting and killing deer with bows and arrows. It wasn't a game. It was real videos. It was horrifying and unacceptable. I will NEVER watch another video from ANY channel that displays an ad like that. Goodbye.

  12. I met my partner of 10 years on Myspace originally. Now that he has passed I want nothing more than to look at his old acct.

  13. Some one made a DSLR that ran Android. I love the idea of using it to take pictures and directly uploading them to what ever platform. Sadly, I am too poor to buy it and one of my friends got to use it and the optics kinda suck.

  14. made my first MySpace page and a stranger with a flashlight for a default picture added me as my first friend, tricked out my page with HTML codes whilst browsing for upcoming new artists, and putting them as my profile music. damn MySpace was the bomb.

  15. 5:44 To this day I still have no clue what she was even known for or why she would be special enough to want to bring to Myspace.

  16. I made pretty good money making entire pages, just templates, or individual ads for Myspace users. You just can't do that on today's social networks. Back in the day a person's Myspace page was VERY MUCH a reflection of themselves. Now days every social network profile looks more or less the same outside of the specific photos or videos they're allowed to post or share on there. You could make Myspace look or act however you wanted it to. Want it different colors, in a different layout, or blingy and pretty? Code it or find a guy that can. Want your favorite song to play when someone visits? EASY. Now days everything is simple and sanitized. On Facebook and the rest your page or profile is not reflection of you and allows absolutely zero creative freedom outside of picking which filter to use for your photo or video. Today's social networks serve as nothing more than a collection of information to be sold to advertisers under the guise of "connecting the world" or whatever bullshit Zuck & others are trying to spin this week. Seriously though, if you even have a passing interest in travel photography give Tom a follow. He takes some great shots & shares great stories about his travels.

  17. At about 40 seconds into the video above, did that image that Simon showed over his right shoulder of the Friendster notification read that it was addressed to GOD, or was that GED? Anyone else notice that?

  18. I miss myspace's customization options, I used to spend hours designing layouts as well as playing the games.

  19. …..you mean the swallows of Capistrano? San Juan Capistrano is an old Mission in California that is home to the nests of large numbers of these cliff swallows. Every year(and for hundreds of years) these swallows return en masse to this old Catholic Mission to roost.
    There…learn something new everyday.

  20. I never used MySpace, but even so, this is a very interesting vid, and Tom in particular seems like an interesting guy, heh.

  21. Suddenly I don't feel so sorry for Tom anymore.

    If I had hacked into a bank's computer and tried to blackmail them into letting me use their computer as I chose, I'd be in jail to this day.
    He gets a warning and winds up becoming a multimillionaire….

  22. MySpace was 100X better then Facebook…customized ur page, music, best friend page, change ur name, somebody always inboxed you, I still remember the notification sound

  23. Honestly I wouldnt doubt more people have seen a picture of him than the mona lisa even including digital copies, I dont think I've ever seen a picture of the original mona lisa

  24. i live in california, and have been to capistrano many time – but never heard of the salmon of capistrano…

  25. TAKEAWAY FOR SOCIAL MEDIA ENGINEERS: People like customizability. They're tired of forced uniformity. They want the ability & creative freedom to make their page a visual representation of their personality. The more options & fewer restrictions, the better. Pls note.

  26. Salmon? Nice I needed a chuckle hopefully that'll take me to when my coffee is ready mornings are hell.
    And as always nothing but a lot of Detroit🏭

  27. I think. Myspace still has a chance at a comeback, a redesign, if they promise no censorship "within the law". No political agenda like the others. It could clean up.

  28. Wow lol Myspace looks exactly like Facebook in that pic. I remember them being pretty different looking. Facebook owes Tom everything!!!!!

  29. I just realized something. Thomas Anderson is also the offline name of Neo in the Matrix movies. I have a feeling that was deliberate.

  30. So, I’m m not sure where in Britain you are, but it would have been cool to run into you while I was in London, and P.S. much better with the beard

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