Why I Don’t Use MySpace

I strongly dislike MySpace. Unfortunately, as the de facto standard for online communication in the music world, it sometimes feels necessary. Though I maintain an account for my band, I refuse to create my own personal or artist account.

It’s not that I refuse to participate in “social networking”. I’m a bit of a Facebook fanatic and my friends can attest to that (though Facebook calls itself a social utility instead of a social network). It’s MySpace in particular that inspires loathing.

Security: Things like the Samy Worm, a cross-site scripting attack that took MySpace by storm in October 2005, make me feel uneasy about the freedom a user has to add anything to their profile. Although it was largely due to an Internet Explorer vulnerability (there are many) that Samy was able to get his code to execute (which thankfully, was not malicious), there are other security holes which are MySpace’s fault – such as the ability to view a user’s private data – which go unpatched for months.

Privacy: Ignoring the huge security holes in MySpace privacy settings that have existed in the past (mentioned above and here), MySpace simply has no hope of ever coming close to implementing the types of complex privacy controls that Facebook has; you can tell they just don’t have the infrastructure in place. There are no networks, no meaning to relationships such as “friend of a friend” (since it’s more common to be friends with a stranger than someone you actually know), and hardly any ability to separate off sections of your profile, since it’s largely a single section where anything goes. Privacy settings seem to consist of simply “public” or “private”, rather than having any real meaningful or useful control over your content.

Search: ie. lack thereof. Try finding one of your friends who’s not in your Top 8 and hasn’t posted on your profile recently. Enough said. It’s easier to find someone who you’re not already friends with on Facebook than it is to navigate to a friend’s profile on MySpace.

Design: MySpace design is practically non-existent. There is actually no bar that’s set because anything goes. The lack of any sort of unity between profiles breaks so many fundamental rules of user interface design. People can change the basic buttons (e.g. the “Add as Friend” or “Message” buttons), and even change/hide the main website header! And I don’t even have the patience to talk about the freedom to mess with the colour scheme. On Facebook, you can’t fundamentally alter the look or structure of your profile. That’s because the focus is on the profile content, rather than it being some sort of contest to see who can deviate from the standard most. It makes navigation and communication easy without limiting a user’s ability to “express themselves” in a meaningful way. True freedom is not an absence of any structure or rules. In order to drive, we all need to agree to some basic rules of the road. Without that structure, we’d have the freedom to do anything on the roads, yet we’d lose our freedom to use them for safe and effective travel.

Bugs: Now, as a programmer, I know that there will always be bugs in software. But for a website as big as MySpace to constantly tell me “You must be logged in to do that” when I am trying to log in, to have broken links in the inbox, to constantly serve up “unexpected errors” or to not warn a user when javascript is needed and not enabled just makes me feel embarrassed for them. I deleted a message from my inbox today from Tom assuring me that MySpace did “NOT DELETE” any of my friends. There was just a bug they’d discovered that rendered a friend count inaccurate, which, upon correcting, had lowered some people’s friend counts. How hard can it possibly be to maintain a friend count? And how hard can it be for a social networking site to develop a mechanism for making announcements to users that doesn’t involve spamming the entire user base?

Culture: Internet culture often inspires the lowest common denominator. MySpace inspires some of the worst. Case in point: my band received a friend request (and accompanying message) from this guy today. Somebody shoot me. Err.. $ombodyz sh00t me!!~~~ (Yes – I rejected the request.)

Intrusive Advertisements: MySpace needs a button to report inappropriate content on its advertisements. I have the desire to report ads much more often than I ever have the desire to report user content (unless it’s a message from Tom…). Someone needs to introduce them to the words “quality” and “control”.

Autoplay: I’m sick and tired of reaching for the mute button (especially since it’s never in the same place).

Pet Peeve: Is it just me or is the equalizer in the MySpace music player just faking it?

I’ll continue to maintain my band’s MySpace profile (as long as it feels necessary), but let me take this opportunity to reaffirm my resolve to boycott MySpace on a personal level. I’d much rather use more powerful, user-friendly utilities such as Facebook and Last.fm (see my artist page – who needs MySpace!).

I think MySpace’s days are numbered. Here’s to hoping that number is relatively small.