Everyone knows Tom, right? He's your friend, he's everyone's friend. He's the first guy you see smiling back at you from an odd-trendy camera angle when you and 80 million other people sign up for a MySpace profile.
Now, like the beginning of a rich and wonderfully Byzantine novel, let me layer in the next part of the story. It's amazing how wrong traditional media and professional journalists can be in reporting on the technology and media industries. I had some level of personal involvement in a story that got some major play last year. It had to do with potential gaming at a major social news site, and while there were wild allegations and a few bits and pieces of the truth thrown in, the actual story – while pretty much in the public eye for a careful journalist to uncover – went virtually uncovered.
Back to MySpace. It's well known that MySpace is trying to figure out ways to block some third-party widgets and music/video players so that they can lock in exclusive deals for themselves or flat out force people to use their own products and tools. The trick of course is that one of the key reasons why MySpace became the superstar of the social networking space – and why they leapfrogged Friendster at a crucial juncture – is because they are largely hands off about what people do with their profile pages.
Developments in that storyline make for a good story, and The New York Times does a good job overall with today's "MySpace Restrictions Upset Some Users." It runs down MySpace's new restrictions on a music e-commerce widget called the Hoooka, and how it personally affected musician Tila Tequila's profile.
But it rankled me to read that "the Hoooka disappeared on Sunday after a MySpace founder, Tom Anderson, personally contacted Ms. Tequila to object, according to someone with direct knowledge of the dispute."
I have no personal knowledge of this story and I don't know Tom (although he's my friend!), but I'd be amazed if Tom took the time to contact Ms. Tequila personally about her use of the Hoooka widget. MySpace has a boatload of customer service employees, and Tom's busy being Tom. My assumption is that someone told NYT reporter Brad Stone that Tom was involved, and it sounded good, so it made the story. MySpace's official reaction, which the piece also covers, makes much more sense: MySpace sent Tequila an e-mail demanding the removal of the widget for violating terms of service.
In any event, Mashable rightly points out that MySpace's move against Hoooka is likely because it's trying to better position the Snocap widget, which has a deal in place with MySpace. Snipperoo holds no punches, declaring that MySpace has turned into a Corporate Evil Monster.
Overall, I think trying to sell music directly through social networking sites is a short-sighted business. Like Internet content in general, there's just too much free stuff out there. The old music industry in particular is dying, and selling mp3s for indie bands won't save them. Advertising-supported free music is the future.