Cyberman: Rhodri Marsden

It's time I befriended Jennifer Aniston
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The Independent Online

On first glance it's difficult to work out why. True, it gives the opportunity to call someone a friend without having to spend months winning their confidence and trust, but the quest to accumulate as many pals as possible, while initially compelling, quickly wears off. Secondly, it's far from unique. Other sites such as Friendster, Facebook and others perform similar functions and, arguably, do so much better. And the design of MySpace is repellent, with millions of garish profiles created by teenagers anxious to stamp their dishevelled identities on one particular corner of the internet. But it's that freedom to customise which has pushed Myspace into the major league, and today it boasts over 57 million members, all of whom log on to be confronted with the cheesy grin of their very first "friend", site founder Tom Anderson. Of course, a site doesn't accumulate this much interest without big business watching closely. Rupert Murdoch snapped it up last year for $580m, proclaiming it the centrepiece of his online media strategy, while no doubt salivating at the prospect of a captive audience larger than the population of South Korea. Playboy, meanwhile, realising that there must be some women within that 57 million who would be willing to strip for the camera, recently launched a "Girls Of MySpace" competition to a predictably feverish response.

Myspace's one stroke of genius has been its built-in audio player, giving artistes an easy outlet for their music and putting them in direct contact with their audience. The success of the Arctic Monkeys has been attributed in part to MySpace, and suddenly it has become the focus of frenzied promotional activity. Radio 1 DJs have been creating their own profiles, while Sony's Santa Monica office advertised last week for Myspace-savvy interns to spend unpaid hours promoting their artistes via the site. As the world of PR confronts Myspace head-on, it's inevitable that the site's original purpose - putting people in touch with each other - will become obscured as profiles are set up on behalf of bands, actors and comedians whose publicity machines are desperate to tap into the network. It's rumoured, however, that Jennifer Aniston does use hers - although she only seems to have accumulated a feeble 1,012 pals. I might offer a hand of friendship to the poor girl, although my true destiny is probably going for a pint with Spinmaster Plantpot.

cyber@timewasting.net

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