Earlier this week, it came to light that Myspace has lost most photos, videos, and music files uploaded by users more than three years ago, i.e. from 2003 to 2015. Aside from formerly being a hugely popular social network before Facebook took root in the mid- to late-2000s, Myspace served as many bands’ and musicians’ unofficial websites and repositories for their music, akin to Bandcamp and Soundcloud before those sites existed.
As reported by BoingBoing and other sites based on a Reddit post, music links on Myspace stopped working about a year ago—at first, the site claimed it was working on the issue, but it eventually admitted it has lost all of this data and does not have a backup.
Several years ago, Myspace was completely rebuilt, and apparently in the process of server migration this data was lost forever. On its Help page, Myspace alludes to some videos not being able to be played because of a switch to a new video player. It also states that users’ profiles were lost if their old profile was not “synced” to their new profile. Of course, if users were notified at all of the impending potential loss of their data, notifications may well have been sent, for all intents and purposes, into the void, as Jill Lepore notes in her New Yorker article “The Cobweb: Can the Internet Be Archived?”:
Some of those companies may have notified users, but Jason Scott, who started an outfit called Archive Team—its motto is “We are going to rescue your shit”—says that such notification is usually purely notional: “They were sending e-mail to dead e-mail addresses, saying, ‘Hello, Arthur Dent, your house is going to be crushed.’ ”
This news about Myspace of course reminded me of the Lepore article we just read, as well as Shan Wang’s article “The Internet Isn’t Forever.” Events like these underscore the total impermanence of data and metadata on the internet—for those who no longer had a local copy of their old band’s self-released album, that music may truly be gone forever. This also makes me think about what will happen if/when Bandcamp and Soundcloud eventually fold. Additionally, with the rise of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, fewer people are likely purchasing and downloading music to their local drive, which poses similar questions of data loss.
As an experiment, I went to the Wayback Machine on the Internet Archive to try and access some archived Myspace music profiles from 2006. While I was able to click through to some profiles, much of the content did not display or displayed incorrectly, and I was not able to access any music files or photos.
As Wang states:
The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine is dependable for finding a snapshot in time, but a searcher needs to know the time frame of what they’re looking for, and snapshots don’t really capture a complicated, database-driven project or any site with a lot of dynamic links.
While I didn’t do an extensive exploration on the Wayback Machine, it seems clear that it is now difficult or impossible to access this data.
–Alicia Hyman, INFO 653-02