Why MySpace Works (but Sucks Too)

Ever have one of those days where your brain just races over 30 subjects, unable to settle on one and focus? Yea, me too. This is one of those days, so excuse the sporaticalisciousness of this post.

MySpace sucks. No really. It does. Flame me, go ahead. But, it still sucks. It’s ugly (design -10), difficult to use (usability -3), somewhat functional (functionality -1), but it works.

Why?

The short of it is that it works because we, the geeks and web developers that have been around for 10+ years, have been too slow to serve the general public.

Think about it. What is MySpace? A “social network”? Sure, whatever that means. But, really, isn’t it just a smaller subset of what the internet has been this whole time?

From the get-go, the internet was designed to disseminate information (not true information, just knowledge). That’s step 1. MySpace does that.

Step 2 is that we came to the internet in droves because there was someone to talk to. Remember ICQ? What’s email used for (the basest use of the internet)? To connect. But we wanted more.

Step 3 was that we crated blogs to do that connecting for us. A little easier, but not that simple for the general public. To setup a blog, you still had to be a geek. Why would anyone else do it except to talk about geeky stuff?

Step 4, stop working and have fun (read: Enter the general public). This is why MySpace works. MySpace gave the general non-geek a way to connect with their friends (blogging, trackbacks, comments, posts, email) all “in one place” which is no different from the tools we already have.

The unfortunate thing is that we, the geeks, were too slow to help people use the internet with power. So MySpace gave them power, which upsets us geeks. Not because they gave the general user power, but because it’s so ugly, hard to use, and lacking in features we thing “everyone would want.”

The lesson of the day: If you’re a geek, stop making geeky, full featured power user tools. Start making well designed, general user tools. We’ll all appreciate you so much more.

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

6 Comments on "Why MySpace Works (but Sucks Too)"

  1. misha says:

    Thank you. Ditto. I hate it. It’s ugly. Complicated in a clunky kind of way. Surely, Surely someone out there has the talent to make one that’s a cleaner look and not so…uhm, have I already said ugly and complicated?

  2. nate says:

    Thank you for your bid of support, misha. I fully agree. I think Facebook is doing a good job. Their interface is clean and they are much more targeted (somewhat more safe for the students too).

  3. One of the reasons I stayed away from MySpace for so long was its ugliness and apparent difficulty of use. It looked messy, jumbled and confusing – plus it was “for the kids” anyway.

    Recently though, I jumped in, creating a profile for my website, and it’s been an interesting experiment. It hasn’t generated a ton of traffic, but I also haven’t put a lot of time into it just yet.

    I’ve never used Facebook (I don’t think it works for us Canadians, eh?) … I find LinkedIn to be reasonably easy to use, although it doesn’t quite share the same features as MySpace

  4. nate says:

    Yea, LinkedIn isn’t really the same thing. That place is typically used for business contacts, not really fun. Facebook is more personal but requires a college email account (I think they now do some corporate emails and high schools too). But, it’s less open, which in my view is just fine. But, I’d like to have the option to participate in a Facebook like app (with the nice UI).

  5. nate says:

    haha.. And you have a myspace page. Hilarious.

 
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