Yet by 2009, the site had nearly collapsed. MySpace crumbled under the weight of intrusive ads, dubious management, and an ascendant Facebook. Close to a million users abandoned the website each month for two years. After several rebranding attempts, even the "S" in the site's name shrank to a fraction of its former glory. Myspace was finished.
News Corp, which bought the site for $580 million, dumped it last year for $35 million.
The site's new owners have rebuilt Myspace from scratch. Pop star Justin Timberlake and ad firm Specific Media scooped it up with plans to revitalize the social network while acknowledging that there's no use in fighting Facebook.
The new Myspace focuses the last constituency to stick with the social network: musicians.
"You've got places [other websites] where you can listen to an artist's songs, but not really where you can come together and discover them and enjoy all of their content and connect with them – all in one place," says Jason Knapp, executive vice president of product for Myspace. "That hasn't really come back since it went away with the first Myspace."
Mr. Timberlake has used his industry connections to pull in major bands and rising acts, giving each a slick, graphics-heavy online home for their songs, music videos, concert dates, and fan outreach.
An editorial staff will point people toward new talent. Meanwhile, a series of computer algorithms churn behind the scene, trying to calculate specific recommendations for each user based on his or her Myspace activity.
As people discover new songs, they can listen to these tracks through Myspace's built-in music player. The free service will have the largest music catalog on the Internet, according to Mr. Knapp, with all the songs that one would expect from Pandora and iTunes, plus every track uploaded to both the old and new Myspaces.
The social network is currently invitation-only, but will let in people in waves over the coming months. You can request early access at new.myspace.com.
For more on how technology intersects daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.
[Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article that appeared in the December 17 issue of the Monitor weekly magazine.]