Can MySpace move out of the Stone Age?

MySpace exists for one reason – to make money. That’s why Newscorp purchased it for $580m in 2005. Analysts in Wall Street say that the market value of the site could be $15bn by 2009. Although “Tom” recently reported that the site is the most visited in the world, Alexa recently reported that it is #6, still rather impressive.

The funny thing about all this is that, despite its popularity, it is lagging behind other social networking sites like Bebo and Facebook in terms of design and functionality. MySpace is an inflexible behemoth and I’m going to step through the reasons why and what I’d like to see change. I’m also using input from the friends who replied to my bulletins looking for suggestions. Obviously the rest of you are perfectly ecstatic about the whole thing.

Overall thoughts on the GUI
Not wishing to patronise anyone (well, I suppose I do) but GUI is an acronym for Graphical User Interface and refers to the visual layout of the site and how it helps you interact with it.

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The MySpace GUI is crap. It’s clunky, outdated and garish. Compare it to the streamlined Facebook and the cluttered but more contemporary Bebo and it’s easy to see the difference. Some far more talented folk than me have posted their fantasy new-look MySpace page design on the web. Certainly would be a nice change…

Control panel
So you log on and are brought straight to your “home page” – this of course isn’t your profile page, but rather a control panel of sorts where you can change anything you like. The way MySpace is programmed is one of the first problems. Facebook and Bebo both use a newer programming technique called Ajax which allows parts of pages to be updated without the need for full page refreshes. This allows you to make small changes to your page very quickly and it gives the impression of speed and efficiency.

The “Cool New People” section needs to die, and now. Lou, Trojan, Budgie, A French in Cork, Tricia, Mariead and Paul are NOT new, hardly cool and, well, I suppose they are people. But obviously this section is not dynamic and has just been lazily left there to whittle through about 30 profiles, most of which are not even accessed much. Mind you I am now fully aware that Mairead likes powerlifting and cooking for her boyfriend. Simultaneously, wow!

The page just looks cluttered and for the uninitiated it can seem a trial to get anything done. They should default to a “simple” mode that lets people do the usual things and allow more experienced users to change to “advanced”. The colours don’t help either; the three shades of blue have had their day.

Profiles and editing
Although the other sites allow far less flexible editing of pages, this works to their advantage. You always know where to find things and there’s less chance of people making a total dogs dinner of a redesign (seriously, the majority of pages on MySpace are abysmal looking).

Another simple change would be the ability to go straight to your page when you have saved changes to the profile. Instead you have to click on “home” and then click on “profile”. I know it’s only an extra click but this can be tiresome if you are making very small, minor changes. A “dashboard” visible to the user at all times (like last.fm) would help with this.

Messaging
One of the big flaws with MySpace is the messaging system. I use it quite a lot but its inflexibility make it quite arduous to use. For a start if I want to reply to someone later, I have to take their text, put it in a notepad file and store it on my desktop. Otherwise I’ll easily forget to reply as other messages push it down on to previous pages. I suggest that there should be the ability to create an “Outlook-style” mail system, giving you the option to file messages from certain people in to relevant folders for quick reference and put others in to drafts if you plan to reply later on. Here’s a mock up (that I created!).
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An extra button on the e-mail page would easily allow you to move a read message to whatever folder you like.
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Another option I’d like to see (and it’s such a basic one) is the ability to preview a message before you send it. How many times have you inserted a link to a graphic or a website in a message and only found out after you’ve sent it that you did it wrong? Again, a simple change as demonstrated below would be easily implemented. An additional button would allow you to send it to drafts for sending later on.
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Regarding messages you receive, how about having clickable web addresses? If someone sends you a web address rather than a link, you have to copy and paste it to access the page. This is an unnecessary situation too.

Mail should be searchable. If I want to see a list of all the messages that have come from a certain person then I should be able to do that. God, it’s so simple Tom!

Notifications
I like that it tells me that there is a new blog comment or a new message but when I comment on my own blog, I don’t need a notification. I know! I just commented! I was there!

I do like the changes to the picture comment notifcation – when you click on the notification link, it shows you only the pictures that there have been new comments on. Simple change but exactly what the fictitous doctor ordered.

Quick links
I like the new quick links. It’s a total rip off from Facebook but what the hell – it works. Being able to “comment back” or “send message” is very helpful and time saving. However “block user” is an odd one! I presume this is done incase you’re getting spammed by someone you added. However I wouldn’t call it completely necessary to have it there.

What you say?
Jen-Nay told me about a friend of hers who had his photos taken from his page and a fake “bashing” page created by a girl who was pissed with him. So can we do anything to stop people from copying your pictures and using them for whatever means they like?

Well, no, not easily. The Internet Movie Database protect their images by disabling a right click so you can’t copy or get a direct link to where they are stored. It’s easy to get around this by simply clicking “print screen” button on your keyboard and then pasting the screen in to a graphics application like Irfanview and cropping it. Takes about 5 seconds. So really it’s a moral problem and nothing to do with MySpace *Graham takes off his serious theological hat*.

Kaz wants a better search engine: “Searching for people on MySpace is a nightmare. The current search is way too vague.” I totally agree with this. I’ve also noticed that it doesn’t actually work on your own friends list. If you browse just your friends list, no criteria, no matter how broad, returns any hits. Crap.

How about the ability to block bulletins from people who send tons of crap to you? Janice thinks this would be a good idea. Since they’ve increased the viewable bulletins from 5 to 10 on the control panel page, you do get to see ones you’d normally miss but it’s fair comment that some friends can send quiz after quiz and if you’re not interested in it perhaps blocking it would be a good option to have. Or maybe an extra option on bulletins that means you have to select what type of bulletin you are sending (personal, survey, quiz, advert, comment etc). Then each user would get to filter out the types of bulletins they are not interesed in receiving. How about that?? Ok, I did a mock up of that too!
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One interesting suggestion from both Halesy Lumies’ lil obnoxious Yankees fan and Nette was that we should have the ability to “recall” messages that we’ve sent but are unread. This is possible in a system like Microsoft Exchange where you can do just that. The only thing I would say about it is that if the person you have sent the message to sees that you have “recalled” a message (ie they noticed it in their inbox and then it’s gone), then they will suspect that you said something you regret and perhaps cause even more problems than it would have had they read the message!

So what do others think? Is it right that such a feature should be brought in? Some people think that you should be held accountable for what you say and should not be able to delete or change anything you post on the internet. After all, if you stick a letter in a mailbox you can’t then go to the Post Office and beg them not to post it. Honest – have you not seen this?

Final comment from Yasmiah:
“I would like to be able to somehow get rid of all those posers out there who are using the friends add as an advertising tool. No…I don’t need any viagra today, but will you still be my friend if I don’t purchase your erection remedy? Gee…I really don’t need psycic investment advice, but who are your favorite musicians? Or how bout those guys that send messages about how they saw your photo and want to settle down with you and have a baby? (Boy, I know a few of those guys… – Graham) Christ on a bleedin cracker folks! Myspace is more than a friggin photo…that’s why we get a full profile page. READ the damn profile and then you’ll know if the person your messaging would be interested. The other day I got a message from this guy who was ‘a loyal, loving hard working Christian man looking for the same in a devoted Christian woman.’ Does that sound like he took two seconds to even read past the first sentence in my profile?”

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