When Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all went down this week, social media users got nostalgic for simpler times when Myspace was the hottest way to post about your life online
Image: WireImage for ce.com)
In the distant past when Facebook was just a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye, Myspace was the place to be.
And for millions of us, its enigmatic founder, Tom Anderson, was the first digital ‘friend’ who appeared on our profiles.
As Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all went down on Monday, social media users began to reminisce about their earliest days on the internet.
While many got nostaglic over the simpler times of sites like Myspace, it appears Tom, 51, has no plans to resurrect the once-mighty network.
In 2005, the man known as ‘Myspace Tom’ sold the business to News Corp for $580million (£408million) before retiring four years later.
As the website rapidly fell to its all-conquering rival Facebook, Tom took an early retirement – and has been living the dream ever since.
Teen hacker sparked FBI raid before brainwave
A computer genius from an early age, Tom attended San Pasqual High in Escondido, California – but had some surprising extracurricular interests.
Going by the pseudonym ‘Lord Flathead’, he incredibly attracted the attention of the FBI as a teenage computer hacker.
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According to TechCrunch, at the age of 14 he was the subject of one of the largest FBI raids in Californian history after hacking into the Chase Manhattan Bank computer system and showing his friends how to do it.
The website reported that one day in 1985 50 agents stormed the homes of Tom and his friends and seized 25 personal computers.
“Our source says the FBI was expecting a serious criminal conspiracy ring of hardcore hackers, not a group of teens led by Anderson, a high school freshman,” it added.
As a minor, Tom escaped arrest and moved to Taiwan after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley.
After returning to the US, he met Chris DeWolfe while working at XDrive, a digital storage company.
When the business folded, they founded and later sold their first company, direct marketing group ResponseBase.
In 2003, they decided to set up the first pages of Myspace as a challenge to the social network game Friendster – quickly becoming two of the most influential tech businessmen on the planet.
Myspace ‘mismanaged in every way possible’
By 2005, Myspace had become the biggest social networking site in the world.
The website was especially a hit with teenagers, who were able to customise their own profiles, add and interact with friends – features that would similarly go on to inspire Facebook.
At the height of its success, however, the company was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, with Tom staying on as president.
Following the acquisition tensions emerged, with Tom admitting: “Before, I could do whatever I wanted. Now it takes more time to get people to agree on things.
“All the budget reviews and processes. That can be a pain. But it’s not stopping us.”
By 2008, however, Zuckerberg’s Facebook had become the go-to social media platform and users deserted Myspace.
Tom stepped down in 2009, as the workforce was slashed by 30 per cent to 1,000 staff. By June 2011, just 400 were left.
That same month, Specific Media Group and singer Justin Timberlake jointly purchased the company for approximately $35million – a fraction of its price just years earlier.
In October 2011, Murdoch admitted he had made a “huge mistake” when asked about Myspace.
Insisting everyone thought “it was fantastic” that News Corp had managed to snap up the site at its peak, the tycoon said his company managed to “mismanage it in every possible way.”
Living the dream as travel photographer with $60m fortune
So what happened to Tom? Over the years he has cut a publicity-shy figure – his Twitter profile for a long time reading “Enjoying being retired”.
Over on Instagram, however, he was active until 2018, sharing snaps of his incredible new life as a travel photographer.
Now based in Hawaii with an estimated $60million fortune, he appears to be living the dream as a semi-retired millionaire, exploring all corners of the world from Thailand to the Maldives.
“Former 1st friend! Surfing, travel/photos, architecture-design, DogDad,” his profile reads, also revealing that he is an investor in Elon Musk’s SpaceX business.
Alongside beautiful snaps of his trips to Singapore, Bhutan and the Philippines, he also shared some words of advice for his 643,000 followers.
“Lately I’ve been meeting a lot of “lost” people that seem to suffer from a crisis of confidence,” he wrote in one post.
“I’m trying to help where I can. You don’t always have to understand the path forward. It’s OK to be lost at times. Crisis begets growth.”
According to Cheetsheet, Tom bought a swanky $3.8million pad in West Hollywood in 2019 that previously belonged to The Chainsmokers star Drew Taggart.
While he barely posts these days, he did pop up after Donald Trump was banned from Twitter in the wake of January’s US Capitol riots.
In just his second tweet in three years, Tom posted a meme of the former president looking at a computer screen with Myspace on it, with the caption reading: “‘Myspace Tom’ about to get a new friend.”
Another tweet went viral last year when user Jack Murphy wrote: “Remember Tom? Remember how he just sold his $500m share in myspace and retired so he could have a nice life?
“He never sold our data, never tried to influence elections, never lobbied against privacy legislations… what a man. Myspace was just too pure for this world.”
Responding with two heart-face emojis and a ‘hang loose’ sign, Tom simply returned to his well-earned retirement.
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