Microsoft technology isn't what killed MySpace

It’s not impossible, I suppose, for a technology stack to kill a business, but I don’t think that’s what happened here. It’s becoming clear that a lot of other things were broken first, and it’s hardly fair to pin their eventual failure on Microsoft, as Robert Scoble’s sources do here. There’s a great followup on High Scalability that dives through the comments on the original article and picks out some gems. From a comment by Nick Kwiatkowski (emphasis mine):

The biggest problem was they didn’t allow the developers to have staging or testing servers — they deployed on the production servers on the first go-around. … And all this with no change management or control. No versioning either. MySpace management never wanted to go back and review code or make it more efficient. Their solution was “more servers”. They ended up hiring a crew who’s sole job was to install more servers. Meanwhile they had developers checking in buggy code and they were racking up technical debt at an alarming rate. At the time MySpace was running two major versions of their application server behind what was recommended for use.

If true, this is a vivid demonstration of bad practices magnified to enterprise scale. This engineering and management culture is what brought down MySpace, not a technology stack; there are so many problems here, I hardly know where to begin.

One advantage of working at a place like ThoughtWorks is that you get to share in the joys and the problems of a diverse range of companies; I can tell you for a fact that MySpace isn’t the only company ever to suffer through this kind of management/IT disconnect. Because that’s what it is: a culture clash, not a technology failure. Somewhere along the line, IT and management stopped having rational conversations with each other, and both became complicit with the creation of mess on an epic scale.

I’m not a technological relativist; if I was then I would still be happily writing Java for my day job. I believe that some technologies are better than others. and in the existence of the blub paradox. I don’t have any direct experience with the MySpace stack, so it’s possible that I’m missing something. That said, I don’t think .NET is worse enough than the alternatives to justify the hit it’s taken here.

Say what you want about their privacy policies, but as an early user I felt from the start that the engineering and design practices at Facebook were always better than they were at the social network next door. They played a huge role in Facebook’s eventual dominance.

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