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The MySpace Phenomenon

Posted 2007-01-29 Tags: None

I guess I could also have labelled this as "10 Things I Hate About You" or "Why MySpace is Rotten."

Obviously my point of view is clear at the outset - MySpace is bad. As a disclaimer, I'm not averse to new things - in fact, one might say that I'm addicted to new things - and I do not automatically dislike things that are popular. I apprehensively love Google, for instance, and I am currently a Facebooker (though Facebook is one of those deceptively new things in that it is not particularly new, just newly popular). I also love to waste spend time on the internet surfing and socializing, I'm under 30, I'm in a punk band and I am a technophile. All told, I'm quite nearly the perfect audience for MySpace.

How could they mess up selling it to me?

Cold Fusion

To start with, building a website out of Cold Fusion is a bad idea. That might be a bit too general a statement - there may be some projects where Cold Fusion is the right language, but I cannot think of it - but for MySpace, there is no reason to have it done in Cold Fusion. This is almost like trying to build a boat out of solid rock; you can do it, but it's a lot of work and in the end, you will not have the best boat. There are better building materials available.

Embedded Music

Okay, listen to me for a second. I will happily read your music likes and dislikes, and I will spin up particular songs based on what you recommend. Just please, please, please do not, under any circumstance, for any reason, embed a song on your webpage that plays automatically. It didn't work with midi and it doesn't work with mp3s.

Whitespace

Whitespace is a critical in a visual medium and the amount that you have says something about your product. MySpace needs a little more whitespace and a little less clutter. It is not obvious where one's eye should fall or what is most important on a MySpace page, which shows a lack of purpose.

MySpace Mail

I have several email accounts. I don't need a new kind of message to check.

Calendar Integration

I am a little out of date on this one, but last time I checked I could not export MySpace invitations to my Calendar. This is a simple thing! Why hasn't it been implemented? Oh yeah, I remember; this is made in Cold Fusion which makes some things very easy and some things nearly impossible.

Popularity / Nobody is a Web Developer

My blatant hypocrisy aside, the popularity of MySpace really sets me on edge. Everyone was doing MySpace for a while, and a good portion of those people were customizing the heck out of their pages... by adding embedded songs, extra clutter and ridiculous background images that made the text impossible to read. Low barrier to entry is fantastic, but low barrier to design is not. Most people do not understand how to make something usable on the web. As a result, MySpace has some of the worst usability issues I have ever seen.

Be Great at Something

MySpace suffers from jack-of-all-trades syndrome. It does a little bit of everything and as a result it does nothing well. Okay, that is a little harsh; there are some features of MySpace that are well implemented. But there is no particular thing that MySpace does that you cannot do somewhere else easier and better. The problem with being "acceptable" across the board, but not great in any one area is that the longevity of the site will suffer for it as people discover other tools that do the tasks they want to do in an easy way.

24 Item Menu

If you log in at MySpace and then go to the base URL (MySpace.com) you have 3 menus in the header with 24 options between them. One of the menus has 15 options. Here's a simple rule of thumb - if you have to use your thumb when you're counting menu items, you've got too many menu items. See, I even incorporated a thumb into my thumb rule.

3 or 4 menu items is good. 5, 6 or 7 is acceptable. 8 or more is bad. 15 is wildly ridiculous.

Expectation

This is probably unfair to MySpace itself, but I detest the expectation that one is "on MySpace". I was at a gig once, and someone asked if he could "get our MySpace". I told him that we also had a website to which he replied, "Nobody uses W-W-W anymore! It's all MySpace!" It was at this point that I left the conversation.

The Gestalt

As terrible as individual part of MySpace are, the whole is certainly less than the sum of its parts. It's antagonistic to users, cluttered, confusing, low brow and ugly. It isn't a good way to disseminate information, because information gets easily lost. Everything that MySpace gets right is overshadowed by all the things that it gets wrong.

In 1997 we had GeoCities. 10 years later, there is MySpace. I wonder what 10 more years will bring?