Trying to launder MySpace history?


Valleywag is mostly known as a gossip site that specializes in poking fun at Silicon Valley types, but a recent post took a different tack: it’s a condensed version of a story about the beginnings of MySpace, written by a freelance journalist named Trent Lepinski, who says the publication that commissioned the story dropped it after pressure from News Corp. According to the piece:

Instead of getting comments or an interview from News Corp., they began harassing my employer. Due to groundless legal implications, the article I had written was no longer to be published. However, I now own the rights to my work and after weeks of looking for support and contemplating the situation I have decided to publish the article in its entirety on Valleywag.

The article is said to be forthcoming, but for now there are a series of bullet points — with headlines such as “MySpace is not a viral success” and “MySpace is Spam 2.0.” According to Trent, who is described as a journalism student (and has a website/blog here), Tom Anderson didn’t create MySpace and co-founder Chris DeWolfe has a long history of being associated with spam and malware providers. (Valleywag has written about Trent’s expose before here, and Trent has some background on MySpace at his site here and here).

Is any of this true? From what I have read about the history of MySpace, which emerged from a company called eUniverse, most of what Trent writes about is likely true to some extent (you can find descriptions of eUniverse’s software if you look at certain online spam and malware catalogues). Should it matter that MySpace used its gigantic spam mailing list to help try and turn the new site into a “viral” success?

In the comments on the Valleywag piece, Nick Denton poo-poohs the entire thing, saying:

This article is about as naive as they get… So what if eUniverse had a directory of email addresses? There had to be some value in the service, and viral spread, if it was to attract the number of users it has… Please, enough of the manufactured outrage.

Or maybe Nick is just mad that Valleywag is jumping all over his Gawker action :-) If you’re looking for what appears to be a relatively fair appraisal of MySpace’s creation and an analysis of how it triumphed over Friendster, Startup Review has a pretty good take on it.


The full version of Trent’s opus is up now at Valleywag — and comes with a preamble that pokes fun at Gawker Media’s Nick Denton, who (as Valleywag’s Nick Douglas points out in my comment section) owns Valleywag.

Comments (3)

  1. /pd wrote::

    Matt, this would be space to watch. This was not a tip, rather it was ‘bought’ out. The ramifications are bigger. “Slander” and “libel” from either side is now possible. After all, it was a journalist /reporter who did the inital research and valleywag who is publishing..

    IMH, myspace is a spamworld2.0 , but this is kinda legit, because, their users need to wade thru the spam for them to get to their services. The big question, here would be –was that organic in nature or was it straegic in nature.. ??

    My gut feeling sez, theres much more to what the eye is seeing.. after all Myspace is the biggest property out there – and how fast ?? 2.5 yrs ?? 3yrs ?? thats quite the business eh ??

    Monday, September 11, 2006 at 7:46 pm #
  2. Nick Douglas wrote::

    Denton’s company, Gawker Media, owns Valleywag. (I publish it.)

    Monday, September 11, 2006 at 9:31 pm #
  3. Mathew Ingram wrote::

    My bad. You know, somewhere deep down, I knew that Gawker owned Valleywag, but I guess I got thrown by the fact that Nick was so criical of the post, and that his comment effectively said Valleywag was a takeoff of Gawker, which itself was a takeoff of Spy, which was a takeoff of Private Eye, etc. That Denton — always trying to throw people off the scent :-)

    Monday, September 11, 2006 at 9:51 pm #

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  3. […] But others aren’t buying Lapinski’s expose, at least not all of it, like Matthew Ingram, who makes a number of interesting observations in Trying to Launder MySpace History. […]

  4. Trying to launder MySpace history? on Saturday, September 30, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    […] Trying to launder MySpace history? Found 18 days ago […]

  5. […] Maybe if Brad had picked a slightly less ridiculous number, like say, $2-billion it would have been easier to buy into his story, which comes complete with detailed accusations against Richard Rosenblatt of Intermix Media — the company that bought another company that later morphed into MySpace, if you remember the tale that freelance writer Trent Lepinski told awhile back (the one that he said he was ready to publish until News Corp. allegedly put some heat on the site that was going to publish it). […]