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MySpace data loss: Botched server migration prompts user concerns over fate of lost songs

Details of a sizeable data loss incident involving social networking forerunner MySpace are starting to surface, after more than a year of user complaints about missing content.

The firm has issued a brief statement on the front page of its website confirming that any audio clips, videos or photos users uploaded to the site before 2015 may have been lost during a server migration, which is understood to have taken place over a year ago.

This is based on feedback shared by MySpace users on the web forum Reddit, where in February 2018 reports began to circulate about people being unable to play videos or sound files through MySpace that had been uploaded to the site prior to 2015.

This coincided with a post reportedly appearing within the site’s support pages about a “huge maintenance project” being undertaken by the firm, which may – it warned – prevent users playing some songs and videos.

Based on the timeline of the threads, it appears these playback issues were never resolved, and when users contacted the firm to ask when they would be, they were told the data was likely to remain inaccessible for the foreseeable future.  

It is further claimed the site began notifying users of the botched server migration around eight months ago, before going public with the news on its front page more recently.

Computer Weekly has contacted MySpace for further comment on this story, but at the time of writing no response had been forthcoming.

Message showing on the MySpace website

The site is widely considered to be a forerunner to social networking giant Facebook, whose take-off prompted MySpace to focus its efforts on building on its early days success as a platform where unsigned (or under-represented) artists could share their work and reach a larger audience.

As of 2015, it was claimed the site attracted around 50 million users a month, who primarily used the site to stream music and videos, or upload their own entertainment content. Figures on its own website claim it is home to more than 53 million songs.

As reported by BBC News, former Kickstarter chief technology officer Andy Baio claimed the incident may have led to more than 50 million songs being lost, created by 14 million contributors, before going on to theorise the incident might not be all that it seems.

“I’m deeply sceptical this was an accident. Flagrant incompetence may be bad PR, but it still sounds better than, ‘We can’t be bothered with the effort and cost of migrating and hosting 50 million old MP3s’,” he wrote on Twitter.

Barney Taylor, managing director at managed cloud services company Ensono, said server migrations of any size and scale presented a risk.

“Migrating data from one server to another is always a nail-biting exercise. Even the simplest migration can run into hurdles, and the consequences for the business can be severe, hampering customer experience, reputation and, ultimately, revenue,” said Taylor.

“Sometimes, migration is the only option, especially with the rapidity of technology change and the requirements of the business to cut costs, optimise, adapt to a changing skillset or become more agile.

“While we don’t know the exact reasons for this migration, it’s important to ensure you have the right culture, skills and processes in place before embarking on this painstaking activity,” Taylor added.

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