MySpace announced tonight that a new design will be launched next Wednesday. The army of MySpace haters is sure to kick into high gear, with exclamations that it's about time - even though they're unlikely to be satisfied with the changes. When Newscorp bought MySpace nearly three years ago for $580 million, people laughed at the acquisition. It's now recognized as a steal and yet people still complain. It's for user-experience reasons, though, that they should stop complaining.
The millions upon millions of MySpace users will likely appreciate the changes being made next week, which are well detailed, if you're interested, by Caroline McCarthy on the excellent blog Webware. Most importantly, a major overhaul to the widely criticized social networking giant is a good opportunity to look at the ways that MySpace rocks. It's chronically unappreciated by geeks and we think that's wrong. Below are the reasons we argue that MySpace deserves more respect than the geek-o-sphere gives it.
Music on MySpace is a Good Thing, Not a Plague
One of the most common criticisms of MySpace is about the preponderance of profile pages with music set to autoplay. It turns out there's a function key on every computer that solves this problem - the mute function. Just like turning down the brightness on your monitor helps extend battery life, so too does turning the volume down or off help extend your sanity when you're reconnecting with friends from high school on MySpace. Problem solved.
In fact, music on MySpace is a net win. Who else has convinced 3 out of the 4 major labels to offer both DRM-free music downloads and free, ad-supported streaming? That deserves some respect.
MySpace is Not the Ugliest Site on the Internet and You Can Fix Ugly Pages in 2 Minutes
In some circles, MySpace is another word for bad website and page design. The fact is, though, that the web is full of ugly websites. As for stupid clutter - Facebook gets far more respect but has far more stupid applications making a mess of the site.
The primary complaint of the web-elite, but not something you hear regular people who use MySpace complaining about all the time, is the eye-terror caused by custom profile page designs. If you are bothered by looking at whacked out MySpace profiles, uglified by the same democratizing paradigm that set millions of unreadable blogs loose on the world, then there's a simple solution for you. Just install one of the MySpace custom style remover Greasemonkey scripts available at Userscripts and quit your complaining already. Then add some of Duncan Riley's great FriendFeed scripts while you're at it and you'll end up happy later that you read this post.
It's Nearly SPAM FREE
Do you remember when you used to get all those friend invitations from MySpace that were for spammy porn-link profiles? You probably haven't gotten any since last September when MySpace finally rolled out some really effective spam controls! That too deserves some major respect.
MySpace is One of the Most Important Websites in the World and if You Don't Like it, Chances Are You're Just Being a Snob
MySpace is one of the most visited sites in the world and it's introducing a huge number of people to content syndication through the Facebook-copycat news feed and lets millions of people around the world publish to the web for the first time. It's one of the meatiest examples there is of the read/write web. It doesn't get as much respect as Facebook does in part because the user demographics skew towards working class and poor people.
Turn your computer's volume off, go to MySpace and find some people you went to highschool with. Then look and see who they are friends with and look at the pictures of peoples' kids. If you're less or better than 30 years old, maybe this will be a different experience for you - but the point is this: millions of people use MySpace to express themselves online, MySpace is like their email. Turn your nose up at MySpace and you're turning your nose up at opportunities to communicate with all those people.
Next week's redesign may end up being a big one, but for regular MySpace users there are changes that impact their experience on the site all the time. Check out Tom's blog and all the comments people leave there. While you're trying to get your parents, your boss or your friends to read RSS feeds, appreciate Twitter or post photos to Flickr - millions upon millions of people are publishing to the web, finding value in syndicated content, reading blogs and leaving comments all thanks to MySpace. If you have a deep dislike of MySpace, you should really consider getting over it. MySpace is a good and important website.