Saturday, July 15, 2006

MySpace: Less Web 2.0 Than I Expected

MySpace is frequently used as a prime example of web 2.0; however, I am finding that it has fewer web 2.0 characteristics than I expected. I recently used this definition of web 2.0: “I think of web 2.0 as a convenient shorthand for the collaborative, community oriented web where collective intelligence is harnessed and content is created by the many rather than the few. Users participate in an open fashion using technology that facilitates participation for those who are not serious coders in contrast to the static web of a few years ago.” (Trends in Web 2.0)

MySpace excels at creating a community of people who generate huge amounts of content in the form of profile information (about me, who I'd like to meet, interests, personal information, schools attended, employers, friends, comments, blogs, group membership, and much more). The volume of content is nothing short of amazing, and this content is promoted virally when friends encourage other friends to join. When all of your friends are on MySpace, you miss out by not joining, which is a strong form of peer pressure. In order to join, you need to share at least some information, thus creating more content. Absolutely brilliant.

However, I have been frustrated with the MySpace experience. I recently blogged about how I do not fit within the age demographic, so I find it less useful than someone closer to 25 might. I will put this frustration aside, since I cannot really blame MySpace for my age, and no change that MySpace could make would roll time backwards to make me 25 again.

Age aside, I am increasingly frustrated by how MySpace uses (or does not use) web 2.0 technologies. They have a very simple interface where the user types content into text fields and the content is displayed on the profile. This is great for novice users, but I would like more. Today, I wanted to add a quick Javascript snippet to display the RSS feed for this blog on my MySpace profile. I can enter HTML to format the content within the text boxes; however, Javascript is not allowed. I also wanted to move a few things around on the page. MyYahoo and many other sites have Ajax interfaces that allow drag and drop of widgets to rearrange them on the page. With MySpace, I would need to write this code myself or download an annoying template that would rearrange it for me; I cannot just drag and drop the boxes to a more convenient location.

MySpace also fails to leverage the expertise of their user base. For example, the MySpace help files are minimal and fairly useless. Here is an example:

Q. How do I add color, graphics, & sound to my Profile page?

A. Adding color, graphics, and sound to your profile page is easy and requires only a basic knowledge of HTML (the programming language used to create web pages on the Internet). Simply go to "Edit Profile" and enter the desired HTML coding where appropriate. If you do not know HTML, you can reach out and make a new friend by asking someone who has color, graphics, and/or sound on their Profile page how they did it. People on MySpace are friendly and always willing to help, so just ask! This is a great way to meet new people! (MySpace)

I am not one to be excited about writing help files; however, MySpace has a robust user community that could be leveraged to provide this information easily via a wiki or other technology. EBay has successfully implemented something similar giving users the ability to easily help each other. MySpace could easily set up a wiki that people could use to share tips and tricks, helpful hints, and other information. In the above example, the users could create detailed instructions about changing profiles including the code required.

MySpace has a lot of strengths in social networking and content creation; however, by utilizing some of the newer technologies, MySpace could feel less like a static environment and more like a dynamic and vibrant web 2.0 site.

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