Two weeks ago I kicked off a series on the most popular online destination in the world – MySpace. While I had read a lot about MySpace, I had never been there myself, so I figured it was time for me to dive in head first find out first hand what all the buzz is about. Here’s a bit of my journey and what I learned along the way.
I started by creating my profile. Thanks to some of our regular blog readers who are already on MySpace, I had 17 “friend requrests” by the end of my first day. For those of you not familiar with MySpace, certain aspects of your profile can be public while parts can be kept private where only your “friends” can see them. A person becomes your friend when one of you makes a “friend request” and the other person accepts it. I accepted all friend requests sent to me. I don’t recommend doing this, and I’ll explain why next week, but I wanted to see the good and the bad of MySpace for myself.
Some folks were kind enough to post a comment on my site. Others peoeple sent me a private message welcoming me to MySpace. If you are one of those people, thanks – that was nice.
Later I updated my profile adding information about the high school and college I attended. MySpace has a cool feature which lets you search for other people who are attending or have attended the same schools. I was disappointed to find there were only about a dozen people out of my college graduating class of nearly 1,000 in MySpace. I managed to find one guy I knew and sent him a message. Haven’t heard back yet. Couldn’t find anyone I knew from high school.
To be honest I was a bit disapointed and bored.
Breaking down the hype
There’s a lot of hype about MySpace these days. Some say it’s the best thing since Pong. Others say it’s just a silly teenage fad. From a purely technical standpoint MySpace is far from revolutionary.
A MySpace profile is really nothing more than your basic personal homepage like you could create on OurChurch.Com with our Beacon web builder or any number of other sites. You can post pictures just like a photo gallery on a conventional website. You can blog just like a conventional website. People can post comments just as they do in a traditional guestbook. And just like a personal homepage, people can customize their MySpace profile with horribly unreadable combinations of colors and background images (ha ha.)
The power of MySpace
The power of MySpace is in the way it facilitates interaction between people (i.e. social networking.)
The “friends” feature allows you to keep pictures, comments, blogs, and more private so only people you know can see them. Technically, you could do that with a traditional website, but it would require a CMS (content management system).
The bulletin feature allows you to broadcast a message to all your friends as well as see messages your friends have broadcast. You could do that with a mass email distribution, but this is much simpler.
You can send messages, instant message, participate in forum discussions on every topic imaginable, create groups, share your calendar, and more.
None of these features is in itself revolutionary, but the fact that MySpace is a platform that integrates all these social/communications tools into one place is pretty cool. If your friends and family are on MySpace you really have no need to go anywhere else. No need for a personal website, a blog, a photo sharing site, email, IM, forums, chat rooms, and probably some other tools I haven’t thought of yet.
This is a big reason why MySpace is so appealing to teens. They have a lot of friends and spend a lot of time socializing. MySpace gives them one central place with all the tools they need to communicate and express themselves. And just about everyone they know is there.
However, if a quorum of your friends and family aren’t on MySpace (as probably is the case for most people over the age of 30) then it really loses most of its power and appeal. It’s essentially an issue of critical mass.
That’s my take on MySpace from more of a technical standpoint. Are there any really cool features (or flaws) that I missed? Post a comment and let me know.
You probably noticed that this week I stayed away from the moral and safety issues related to MySpace. That was intentional because next week I’m going to tackle the question, “Is MySpace safe for kids or adults?”