For all the dirt that gets dished on the MySpace social network, very little of it has spilled about MySpace itself. But in a new book out today, and unveiled at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, author Julia Angwin unveils the somewhat tawdry story of the company’s roots in spam, porn and spyware.
“When I started reporting on MySpace, as I discovered its history, I couldn’t believe it had never been told,” Angwin, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, said in an interview. “The founders kept it hidden. You had to dig to find it.”
Despite her best efforts, the founders, Chris DeWolfe andTom Anderson, did not talk to Angwin for her book, “Stealing MySpace: The Battle To Control the Most Popular Website in America.”
“They were always polite and nice,” she said. “They never said, ‘No,’ but they never said, ‘Yes.’”
In a way, she said, “having no access is such a gift. You have to check your facts so much. You can only say what you can prove.”
Even though some reviews note that the founders don’t come across as model citizens in the book, Angwin said she grew to respect them. “I have a lot of admiration for their spirit and pluck,” she said. “They kept throwing things at the wall in the face of failure. They found the right thing, and it stuck.”
Angwin found herself in a somewhat challenging position while she worked on the book: Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., which owns MySpace, bought Dow Jones, the parent company of the Wall Street Journal. Suddenly she was writing the unauthorized story of one of her boss’ prime assets.
“It didn’t change anything,” Angwin said. “They’ve been very good to me.”