The company is blaming a faulty server migration for the mass deletion, which appears to have happened more than a year ago, when the first reports appeared of users unable to access older content. The company has confirmed to online archivists that music has been lost permanently, dashing hopes that a backup could be used to permanently protect the collection for future generations.
More than 50m tracks from 14 million artists have been lost, including songs that led to the rise of the “Myspace Generation” cohort of artists, such as Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys and Yeasayer. As well as music, the site has also accidentally deleted pictures and videos stored on its servers.
Even though many users had deserted Myspace by the end of the noughties for newer social networks such as Facebook, the site retained a significant user base well into this decade as musicians had cultivated their fan followings on it. A disastrous relaunch in 2013 led to most bands having to rebuild their communities from scratch.
That relaunch also cleared much of the text content on the site, including “wall posts” between users. But music and images were left up, in the hope that they could be the building blocks for a music-focused second life that never came.
Even so, the site still has some diehard users, such as Kenneth Scalir, who told the Guardian in 2018: “Myspace is such a huge part of my life. I’ve met new people I otherwise wouldn’t have met and learned about new fashions and bands.”
Some have questioned how the embattled company, which was purchased by Time Inc in 2016, could make such a blunder. “I’m deeply sceptical this was an accident,” wrote the web expert Andy Baio. “Flagrant incompetence may be bad PR, but it still sounds better than, ‘We can’t be bothered with the effort and cost of migrating and hosting 50m old MP3s.’”
Myspace initially claimed the deletion was a temporary error, with customer support staff telling one user: “I have been informed the issue will be fixed.” But by July last year it was publicly acknowledging that no such fix was forthcoming.
The site now has a banner at the top of the site telling visitors: “As a result of a server migration project, any photos, videos, and audio files you uploaded more than three years ago may no longer be available on or from Myspace. We apologise for the inconvenience and suggest that you retain your backup copies. If you would like more information, please contact our data protection officer.”
The news of Myspace’s deletion has prompted comparisons with other early internet communities that closed down, deleting huge swaths of online history in the process, from the website maker Geocities to the failed social network Google Plus. But those sites managed to give enough warning for archivists to capture the heart of their communities for posterity. In 2016, the Internet Archive launched a searchable collection of every GIF ever posted to Geocities, after mirroring the entire network in 2009, shortly before it closed down.
At the weekend, a group of volunteers announced they were working to preserve Google Plus posts on the Internet Archive before the site closes in April. The archive estimates it costs about $2 to permanently archive 1 gigabyte of data.
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