MyThoughts on MySpace
I played around with MySpace yesterday. I signed up last year at the urging of my friend Ashley, but I never used it for anything besides responding to her emails. But I read on Friday how MySpace has just raised $5mm from RedPoint Ventures, so I decided perhaps I should give it another shot.
After spending an hour or so looking around, I've learned three things: 1) There is an interesting and attractive (though young and LA-heavy) crowd on MySpace. 2) The interface is god-awful, made worse by the fact that people are able to customize their profiles in all sorts of terrible, GeoCities-circa-1997 ways. 3) They are a closed ecosystem.
The closed nature of the system is what frustrates me the most. I don’t have a great deal of experience with other social-networking sites, so I don’t know how common this paradigm is. But MySpace contains within it an email client, a blog, a blog aggregator, and an instant message client. All of which are only useful for communicating with other MySpace users.
And here’s what you can’t do: you can’t redirect your email to a real email client, you can’t point to your real blog outside of MySpace, you can’t get RSS output of your friend’s MySpace blogs into your newsreader of choice, and you can’t find out anyone’s real IM name or email address. It is a transparent attempt to force more ad views, and unfortunately their business model probably depends on it.
This is so brain-dead. Think about how much engineering effort this resource-poor startup is spending on reinventing these wheels, rather than making their core service better. I already have an email client, a blog and an instant messaging account. Forcing me to duplicate all that just makes it that much less likely that I will be truly invested in MySpace. Why the hell should I have to remember to look at another email account every day? Besides which, the MySpace replacements for these key tools are all sub-par. I mean, cripes: webmail? web-IM? ugh. MySpace should want to become an integral part of my wired life, rather than trying to replace my entire wired life.
I wish a social networking site could be built so that it does just one thing (manage relationships) really well, and then integrates with the rest of your life rather than forcing you to duplicate it in an isolated sandbox for the sake of their ad revenues. I find it insulting.
Ultimately, do I think it was worth the $5mm investment? Unlikely: it all depends on how long MySpace can remain cool. Because the instant it ceases to be cool the herd will go elsewhere. And as we should have leaned from Friendster, Orkut & al., the half-life on cool is pretty damn short.
P.S. One further thing: it was impossible to find anything on MySpace. Searching was terrible. I had friends who I knew were members, but the system couldn’t find them at all. I tried names; I tried email addresses; I tried keywords. MySpace returned nothing. Incredibly frustrating. That must be fixed.