Hollywood Reporter
updated 1/18/2006 4:32:45 PM ET 2006-01-18T21:32:45

If MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe has his way, the quirky social networking site he co-founded two years ago will hold tight to its homegrown roots, even though it now boasts more unique users than Google or America Online and has a new owner at its helm.

Still, the company's recent acquisition by News Corp., one of the most powerful news conglomerates on the planet, has some of the site's 43 million members nervous that their online home might become subject to the rules of an overbearing parent.

"The secret to our success is our one-to-one relationship with our users," the 39-year-old DeWolfe says about the portal he created with co-founder Tom Anderson. "All the site's features have stemmed from users' requests. We don't plan to change that at all. The folks at News Corp. understand that."

DeWolfe, a Portland, Ore., native with an MBA from the University of Southern California — where he says he got the Internet bug — worked for an online data storage company but was by no means raised in a technologically entrenched home.

"My passion is the consumer marketing side of things," he says, crediting longtime friend Anderson with giving the site its creative voice. "The idea was to take the best features that were already out there on the Internet and layer them around a social network. Tom called it 'the next-generation portal,' and that totally resonated. So we rallied the troops and went for it."

Since then, MySpace's Santa Monica-based office has grown from fewer than 10 employees to 200, with DeWolfe still involved in day-to-day management. The site itself — which began in the Los Angeles area as a youth-oriented Internet destination designed to connect young adults with their peers — has become a personal extension of its users and the more than 660,000 artists that congregate there.

DeWolfe, whose casual nature adds to the executive hipness factor, seems especially proud of the reconnections the site has furnished. From long-lost siblings and friends reconnecting to serving as a communication network during Hurricane Katrina, MySpace has affixed a "six degrees of separation" element to its social landscape.

It also has served as a venue for people like paraplegic Jesse Billauer to reach out to others with similar challenges.

"It's cool to be able to connect to those that I never would have been able to," says one-time competitive surfer Billauer, who uses his page to raise funds for his charitable foundation.

While DeWolfe's corporate dalliances now seem more universally aligned — to the tune of a $580 million acquisition and the dismay of some fearing the move as a threat to the site's original and outspoken nature — the wealthy ingenue currently making the rounds of News Corp.'s European territories plays down the event as just another day at the Santa Monica seashore.

"Media consumption has changed greatly over the last five years, with people consuming less TV and music and more user-generated content," he says. "News Corp. will help us expand that more quickly all around the world."

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