European expansion for MySpace, the online social network, is often a topic I include in presentations and workshops about social media and social computing.

The context is on the growth of cybercommunities and, in the case of, its rapid and growing appeal to younger people, the broad group Business Week dubbed in its December 2005 special report on MySpace as ‘Generation @.’

According to Alexa Internet, today is number 4 of the top 500 English-language websites worldwide and number 5 in the top 500 of any language. And according to CNET News, is attracting new members at the astounding rate of some 250k per day, which would give it a current accumulated number of signups as around 90 million.

It’s not hard to see why News Corporation paid over half a billion dollars last July to acquire Intermix Media which owns MySpace.

Until recently, though, MySpace has been largely a North American phenomenon with not much meaningful penetration elsewhere in the world.

That’s about to change according to expansion plans outlined in the Financial Times yesterday which reports that MySpace is to use the UK as a beachhead for a push into Europe that will see it link up with “old media” companies and mobile phone operators to attract more users:

[…] Chris DeWolfe, co-founder and chief executive of MySpace, told the Financial Times on Monday that he had earmarked 11 countries for its international expansion, among them France and Germany, and was looking at China and India over the longer term.

The company will on Tuesday announce that David Fischer has been appointed as managing director for the UK and Europe. Mr Fischer, 40, was founder and chief executive of Xlantic Group, a music marketing company, and has worked at Pressplay and AOL Europe.

Mr Fischer, who will be responsible for negotiating with television and music content owners to develop local versions of MySpace, said the first foreign-language sites would be ready later this summer.

He is also looking for alliances with mobile operators to deliver content over mobile phones, an area where Mr DeWolfe predicted “significant” revenues. “I think most [mobile operators] think the killer application could be MySpace.” is not about blogs as some people think. Here’s the best description I’ve yet heard:

MySpace is the new cell phone, the new interactive e-mail, the new […] It’s a way to keep in touch or meet new people.

It’s definitely a business to watch with keen interest, especially as competitors aren’t sitting on their hands.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Armin

    I don’t know who MySpace and the FT talked to, but I think MySpace is already fairly big in the UK.

    Listening to BBC 6 Radio MySpace is mentioned everywhere, a lot of UK bands are using it and a quick completely unrepresentative poll among the student interns I work with indicates it is already well established among at least that age group.

    Non-English speaking markets might be a different question, can’t judge that from here as I don’t have enough insight into the German market any more.

  2. neville

    Good points, Armin, and which do illustrate that you need to pay attention to the right media to be in the loop with what’s actually happening. I did see a story somewhere earlier this year that mentioned MySpace launching in the UK with a specific focus on music and bands.

    I’d say the language barrier is likely one reason why MySpace doesn’t have big take-up in continental Europe. Kids will want to connect with friends in their own languages, not English. According to the FT report, though, MySpace will be addressing that with other-language launches this year (the report didn’t say which languages).

  3. Armin

    Not directly topic of this entry, but still related:

    It’s not only kids wanting to communicate and connect in their own language, it’s adults as well. There’s an interesting discussion on Martin Roell’s blog about Bad Simple English (or Pidgin English) used at conferences.

    Most of the discussion is in German (some of the comments are in English), so you might struggle to read and follow it. I hope you get some of the key points though if you’re interested.

    PS: I know I still owe you a translation for the Heise page ;-)

  4. neville

    That’s a very interesting discussion, Armin. I picked up the gist, I think, from the comments in English :)

    I live in NL and participate in some public speaking events here. Of all I’ve done during the past few years – about a dozen – English has been the language of those events. Great for me, of course, as a native speaker. What I’ve noticed about all other speakers at those events, of varying nationalities, all had no problems at all in speaking/presenting in English. Might be a bit pidgin, but one thing about English is that it doesn’t have to be syntax-perfect for anyone to understand meaning.

    I contrast my experience with speaking on a panel at Podcastday2006 in Cologne last month. That was in German. Now my German language skills are about good enough to be able to tell a taxi driver where I need to go, certainly not sufficient for an event like that. So we had simultaneous translation with me and another panelist wearing headphones to hear the discussions in English. At least we could follow along but it made for a lousy experience. And of course, I had to give my comments in English. A bit of a mashup really.

    I do speak one other language fluently – Spanish (especially useful here when I vist Spanish or Latin American restaurants). I’ve noticed with most Europeans I know that everyone has the ability to mix in English with what they’re talking about in their own languages (contrast: most Brits can’t do that at all). And that mix/mash of language is exactly what I do when conversing with Spanish-speaking friends.

    So I suppose what I’m saying here is that English is undoubtedly the lingua franca of business and the web. But if I were, say, Dutch or Spanish, I’d want to use my own language when making connections with friends a la MySpaces, let’s say.

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