I have become, it seems, a cranky old man of the internet. I do not quite understand some of the things that the younguns are doing on the internet these days. One of the things I have trouble understanding is myspace, although ironically this is not because of how new it is, but of how old it is.
To preface my comments, I should say that I am not too much of a snob when it comes to silly internet sites, and have joined just about any social networking site that is free and halfway interesting. When I first saw Myspace, I thought it seemed annoying, pointless and juvenile, but I had the same prejudice against livejournal, prejudices I eventually overcame. After having occasionally gone to myspace for at least a year now, I still find it annoying, pointless and juvenile. There are many problems with it: the self-indulgence, banner advertisements, pornography, security holes, ownership by News Corporation are all down points, but none of them are deal breakers.
The immediate and persistent problem with myspace is it is a throwback to the early days of the World Wide Web (which at this point means before 2000). Some of you may not remember, but around 1998, people started getting their personal homepages for the first time. And since it was a novel, exciting thing, many people weren't too particular about what went on their geocities page. People piled up bad clip art and animated gifs and unusual fonts and crazy background images and linked everywhich way. It was the equivalent of someone who was just learning to drive, and wanted to drive everywhere. It was very understandable, but before long, people realized that it was annoying, and most internet users realized that putting stuff on the internet just because you can was not a good idea.
From my admittedly casual browsing of Myspace, it seems like most users have forgotten that lesson, or are part of a second generation that never learned that lesson, because the biggest problem with myspace is people putting things up just because they can. The same type of scattering of writing, pictures, backgrounds, sounds that we left behind in 1999 or so has inexplicably returned, along with Flash and some new embedded toys. And for some reason, it has taken off on a level that, say, livejournal (not exactly something that you have to be a rocket scientist to understand, anyway) never did. I just can't make out what the great appeal is. Were people really waiting around for a chance to post random pictures of cartoon characters on their profiles? What great need does MySpace fulfill?
On a little more abstract order than that, one of the causes or effects of the "just because you can" nature of MySpace is the lack of any system of categorization I can ascertain. Slashdot, for example, has articles, and users, which produces comments. Livejournal has users, who post posts, which are commented on by other users. Kittenhate has wankers and their wanking. Whatever the particular meat of the site, whether it be technology or masturbation, you can eventually get down to it. But MySpace has no categorization of its substance, because it has no substance: its just the ephemera of whatever people want to do at that moment.
I could be missing something, and if there is some vital need that MySpace has managed to convince tens of millions of people that only it can fill, I would like to know what it is. But until then, I am going to try to stay as far away from myspace as I can.