The problem was compounded by the developing mores that these sites are places for people - for interaction, discourse, meeting and, ultimately, boinking, where advertising was plainly unwelcome.
But they are meeting places, where a crowd gathers and a gathered crowd will always attract commerce. So, it hasn't taken long for an inquisitive circus of musicians, companies, charities, political parties and other soap-boxers to set up among the crowd.
The result is a set of community interactions far more complex than the straightforward pen-pal-fest originally offered by the inventors.
Content owners place their material on MySpace or Facebook like a potential "friend" to be met, enjoyed, shared, though presumably not boinked.
When the linear programme schedule is no longer the primary way of engaging with television, launching new TV shows without the free on-screen promotion will be problematic.
Movie-style launch budgets will not be economic, but the social network - providing easy bounce from member to member - will be the natural place for new TV ideas to be socialised and then bought and viewed.
No surprise then that Trip Advisor is rumoured to be buying Facebook's "Where I've been" application. It's an exceptionally smart move, since the more people share travel experiences inside a social network, the less effective are specialist sites, such as Trip Advisor.
It will be the first of many such "store within store" deals. Taken to the extreme, it is not beyond contemplation that the social network will become the central hub for our media consumption, with traditional media suppliers distributing their online content, not through their own stand-alone sites, but via the relevant community networks.
It is early days and, so far, the big issue appears to be member loyalty. But whoever the chosen networks may be, we should be watching this new category of media place, driven by its users, for significant developments.
- Richard Eyre is chairman of the IAB email@example.com.