It was recycled.
Wall Street Journal reporter Julia Angwin tells the story in her recently published book, Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America. In 1999, Chris DeWolfe, then 34, was hired as head of marketing by a Los Angeles start-up, XDrive, that "aimed to provide free Internet storage space for consumers to store their backup computer files." DeWolfe soon was overseeing 87 people ("the largest marketing division I've ever had in my life," a turnaround specialist later observed) who instead of doing marketing wrote newsletters that were e-mailed to more than 6.5 million subscribers. But by 2001, XDrive had filed for bankruptcy and DeWolfe was out of a job. He spotted an opportunity:
One of his first e-mail consulting clients was a website called MySpace.com, an XDrive competitor that offered free online storage. MySpace had 7.5 million users and offered slightly more storage space—300 Mb (megabits)—than XDrive, which offered 100 Mb.
The MySpace contract didn't last long. On Sunday evening, June 3, at about eight o'clock, the MySpace website went dark. The company had run out of money, and an attempt to save itself through a merger had failed. During the liquidation process, DeWolfe bought the domain name Myspace.com from his former client for $5,000. He wasn't sure what he would do with it.
It took another two years for DeWolfe and a group of colleagues to find a use for MySpace.com: In August 2003, it became the name of a new social-networking site modeled after Friendster. The business was sold to Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation in 2005 for almost $1 billion. Until April 2008, when it was overtaken by Facebook, MySpace was the most popular social networking site in the United States.
Three lessons here:
1. Names can be fungible commodities. In its first incarnation, the "space" in MySpace referred to storage; in its better-known reincarnation, the "space" is what Angwin describes as "a dazzling virtual locker room" that every member can "decorate any way that he or she likes, often with blinking wallpaper, blaring music, streaming videos, and oversized photographs."
2. Recycling isn't only for bottles and cans.
3. Spending money on a domain name can be a very smart move.
As for Angwin's book, it's an enlightening, well-researched investigation of what the author calls "the world's first Hollywood Internet company, a company that is a breed apart from its Silicon Valley brethren." Recommended.