MySpace: The Internet's Largest Cesspool
The more I use MySpace, the more I end up hating it. I'm sure all of you are familiar with the world's largest social networking site. Most of you probably have a profile on there as well. (Someone is creating those 200K+ a day profiles.) I'm here to tell you that it's no more than a Web 2.0 blending of GeoCities, IRC, and Usenet spam, a useless conglomeration of unreadable text, pornography solicitations, and cruising for underage girls.
GeoCities (which had a much less flattering nickname not fit for print) used to be one of the largest "build your own webpage" sites on the Internet. Giving the everyday user the ability to mash together whatever they wanted, however, ended up with pages that not only took several minutes to load but also looked terrible. I'll admit that I'm a bit of a design snob, but I cut some slack when the page is at least usable. But… yellow text on a white background? Thirty-plus animated GIF files on the same page? Rampant mis-spellings and broken links? It was like giving a kid one of those "build it yourself" desks without the directions; the end result wasn't pretty.
I'm sure it doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to see how this ties back into MySpace and how it will let you customize your own pages. Most of them are a mash-up of low-contrast text, obnoxiously loud video and music clips that take forever to load, repeating backgrounds, broken HTML and CSS… it's a web browser's nightmare. Most of them can't even be scrolled through because they've heaped so much crap onto your screen that it takes all of your computing power to try and cope with it. You can almost hear FireFox using a Strongbad voice to say "What? You're not a web designer! You're not even… HTML literate!"
Then there's the constant solicitation by, er, "models" asking you to be their friends. Make no mistake about it: they're posting scantily-clad photos to get you to visit their websites and pay good money to see what little is covered up in the shots they entice you with. With virtually no way to filter out the bogus friend requests or nuke the ToS-violating pictures and profiles faster than they can pop up, MySpace is going to end up sinking under a wave of these just as the old Usenet system collapsed under a barrage of spam, most of it for pornography. Of course, MySpace has no real incentive to reduce it other than keeping up the appearance that they actually care about their own user contracts. After all, porn is a big business, and getting people to come to MySpace cruising for it means lots of advertising dollars.
The most public problem with MySpace are the predators that hang out there. To be fair, predators have been using the Internet for much longer than MySpace has even been a twinkle in a web designer's eye. They used to be very fond of old AOL and IRC chat rooms, not to mention cruising around some of the other webpage communities. What makes MySpace such a target, however, is the amount of personal data it encourages you to disclose all in one place. Some dumb teenager that doesn't know the difference could be leaking out where they live, where they go to school, the names of family and friends… all things a predator will use to gain trust and appear legit. MySpace has made some token "it's the parent's responsibility to take care of this" kind of gestures, but they have their own social responsibility to not encourage it.
It's not just parents that want to keep their children away from garbage like the kind that flourishes on MySpace. Many adults like myself want no part of it. I don't want the invites from the "models". I don't want to see all of the ads for True with their scantily clad women. (This goes especially so since I'm freakin' married. You'd think a site that proudly advertises "we screen for marrieds" would want a little more advertising bang for their buck). I don't want to see someone's rear end popping up on my screen because I clicked on the wrong link. These are all things I should not have to worry about. And yet, there they are.
The theory behind Web 2.0 is that the content is user-created and user-rated. You use associations with others as a way to legitimize yourself and your content. We've got the user-created down pat now. Let's see more user-rated features come into play so we can get what we want.