MySpace or a “waste of space”?

Hello Everyone,

Well by now, unless you have been living in a cave for a long period of time, you should have heard of MySpace.

Whether we like it or not MySpace has taken the world by storm and there are now well over 100,000,000 accounts on MySpace. How many of these are legitimate though is hard to tell.

The concept of MySpace isn’t too difficult to grasp. The clue is in the title. When you create an account which is a fairly simple process even if you’re new to computers. This entitles you to yourspace or myspace on the Internet.

From there you can customize your own personal page or profile page as it is known.

As MySpace is a social networking site, you will then want to add your friends who will also have to create their own profile.

To start with though don’t worry you won’t be completely alone. As the friendly face of Tom who is the president of MySpace will have automatically added you as a friend. But don’t expect him to be there to help if something goes wrong. He is a very, very busy man.

It doesn’t take very long to find a discussion on how MySpace has become extremely popular. The most frequent discussion you will often find is that adding Tom as a friend was just a publicity stunt. As quite frankly he is probably the most popular person on MySpace who isn’t exactly a true friend. This would also apply to most celebrities as well. So one could say that for many companies MySpace has become a new form of advertising.

With such a vast majority of users looking at content everyday you would be mad not to create your publicity on a site that is free. Although larger companies should they wish can also pay for sponsored advertising.

It isn’t just companies who are advertising in new ways either. The brand of MySpace itself has created new opportunities for amateurs to get themselves known.

Take this video for example. The Kings Of MySpace.

The video is now quite ironic because it was featured on MySpace some months ago. As it received such a lot of hits users wanted to add the people behind it as a friend. So not exactly The Kings Of MySpace they have indeed had their 15 minutes of fame.

As with any highly successful website there are bound to be some drawbacks though.

Almost any website which allows users feedback is subject to spam. The more a website gathers users interest the likelihood of it been targeted rises. The choice, often for a web designer is a difficult one. If a site is promoted to a degree that many users join it, only then to find the back end is weak. The site could be crippled in just a matter of days. On the other hand a website cannot survive without its users. Now faced with this catch-22 situation one needs to make a choice. The choice, certainly if you are a company needs to be one based on turning over the most profit as quickly as possible. If not, then you can make a fair bet that someone else will come along and try to better your idea.

In defence of MySpace, it has had more than its fair share which has resulted in more being done to prevent it.

With MySpace bringing up its game this has also meant that hackers have also had to raise their game. In many ways hackers see it as a challenge to prove MySpace wrong that they cannot control what they own. A constant power struggle between companies and members of the public arises.

It has not only had an effect on security issues concerning MySpace but also other widely used software such as Apple’s QuickTime. A major security issue which I was personally affected by caused my login details to be stolen whilst using MySpace.

What’s more is this attack was fairly silent in execution. A specially crafted video with arbitrary code was placed on profile page. As soon as a visitor loaded the exploited page, user login information could be retrieved. All without the user suspecting a thing. The only real tale-tale sign was the video would not play any content. Although to most users it would look as if the server was having issues and could not be pinpointed to a hack attempt.

With this stolen information the spammers get to work with their programs and can spam hundreds if not thousands of profiles with ease.

It doesn’t stop there either. Once the account has been compromised the hacker will also add the video exploit to the victims profile too. The possibility of this exploit spreading fast was huge and of course that is exactly what happened.

As far as Apple was concerned they acted on the issue fairly quickly but perhaps not quickly enough. It just goes to prove how important security is especially when such a vast amount of people can be affected.

When new systems are incorporated to combat security issues they can often cramp the user experience for others.

A prime example of this would be CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) more specifically Image Verification. The main purpose is to try and give a task to a user that only a human would be able to perform. If the task is passed the action is processed. If not the action will be paused and an error message will display.

The most common use for Image Verification is to stop a bot script from running an action continually. In the case of MySpace it could simply be to limit leaving a comment on a profile page that contains spam. Although as technology advances hackers are finding new ways to bypass it.

This is real bad news for the likes of visually impaired people.

At its highest setting Image Verification can be difficult for an average person to read. Those who even have a slightly visually impairment have little chance of being able to interact with a site that uses such technology.

Thankfully, a certain majority of users are aware of this issue and have created reCAPTCHA.

This not only provides the verification in image form but also audio. Although how secure in reality this technology is, has yet to be fully discovered.

With constant new ways to secure websites it is up to companies to get involved and incorporate it.

It is not just hackers and spammers that are having some fun when it comes to advertising.

To many users annoyance you will find many signed and unsigned bands trying to add you as a friend to get you to listen to their music. It may just be a few requests a day but it has to be dealt with just like spam in an email account. There are ways of protecting yourself from this though. The one I have used is to require my email address or last name to be submitted when requesting to add me as a friend.

A vast majority of profiles on MySpace use custom templates. As with most things in life you get what you pay for. The designers of the templates are publishing their work out for free so it seems only fair that they should get something in return.

In many cases the adverts can be rather intruding on a profile page. They are designed to be noticed although not necessarily in a good way for the user. I would go as far to say that they plague a persons profile. If you imagine a beautiful wedding cake with a rotten apple in the middle. That is the sort of impact it has.

As with most sites that you create an account with. They will often expect you to sign up to a strict amount of terms and conditions. If a user digs deep within these there is a section detailing that in no circumstances must the MySpace adverts be covered or not shown.

After all, when all is said and done MySpace is a business. There needs to be some way of creating revenue and often adverts can be the best answer.

Therefore it would be fair to assume that the web developers of MySpace would do something to stop this from happening. It could be possible to disallow certain html tags within the code. They have no trouble disabling JavaScript and HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) can often cause problems in the wrong hands.

If not, they could use a system which only allows specific HTML.

It does not take very long to find a profile infringing these rules and often it will be no fault of the user having applied a template from an external site.

My main concern is that it can leave certain users with the attitude that web design is easy. However the majority of MySpace users may assume that creating a website is just like it is on MySpace. In actual fact it isn’t really a true representation at all.

Although MySpace uses standardise code the way in which it interprets this can be quite difficult to deal with. It’s a bit like a bird in a cage. The bird is free to do what it likes within its parameters but nothing more.

In many respects the developers at MySpace would do well to get rid of their current basic HTML editor all together. Then launch a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor or one that is more advanced created by themselves or a community.

Recently MySpace have launched a Profile Editor currently in Beta Testing.

Another of my all time gripes as with any website in general is browser compatibility. Although it has improved over the years it is still a problem for web developers today. On the whole MySpace seems to be fairly browser compliant. I have yet to encounter any major issues using various different browsers. However this cannot be said for the profile pages which is of course up to the individual user to deal with. Another unexpected area where a novice user may not expect to have to delve into.

With this in mind it does leave a few questions left unanswered in terms of who MySpace’s audience is. Although MySpace has now gone global and has to try and cater for as many people as possible it still needs to think clearly about usability.

In the long run this can be a very difficult process. Almost everyone has a different level of skill when it comes to interacting. But the developers do need to think carefully and in my opinion more than they are currently. One suggestion could be to create a difficultly level system.

For example, when customizing a layout for a profile at the first level, would be validated and browser tested profiles. Although restricting the users choice in design it would solve many issue when it comes to usability. This problem of course could be reduced by receiving help from the community. There are many talented web designers who would be more than likely to offer there skills. At worst, perhaps they could offer new designs for a set price. That way ensuring quality in the design without the need for adverts taking away from it.

When the user had chosen their layout they could then fill in specific details. An advanced options menu could be inserted for those wanting to manipulate the code to their needs. Thus notifying users that what they are attempting to do is more difficult than what it seems currently.

With all this going on in the background it isn’t surprising that the servers are bound to have issues.

In many respects one could think MySpace is a victim to its own popularity. The amount of maintenance that needs to go into the site must be astounding.

When maintenance does occur Tom will normally post a message or bulletin to notify users that it will happen so not to create mass panic. I find personally that this maintenance happens far too often. There also could be more notice and the message could be set to an individuals time zone. That way it would make it a lot easier for the user knowing when they could not access the site. The amount of times I have tried to login to my profile to be confronted by a message “sorry the server is busy” In my opinion has been rather ridiculous.

That, if anything has been my only real concern on using MySpace. Will the site become too popular that it will all just come to an end due to lack of funds?

Hopefully that outcome is highly unlikely as we’re talking about major corporations funding the existence of the site. That does in itself provide a potential problem.

It isn’t just popularity that can bring a site down due to attacks. If enough members disagree with a companies values they will try their hardest to make them suffer.

Take Tom’s MySpace account for example. If you can imagine how many hack attempts are isolated to that account must be mind boggling.

Unfortunately for this blog I am unable to describe how exactly Tom does protect his account due to security issues.

Although in terms of speculating it is highly unlikely that his account could be accessed from every computer in the world. It has probably been set up so that one computer can access it alone.

This kind of security cannot and would not make sense to an everyday user of course. It would not only take a long period of time to implement but the idea of social networking is that providing you have an Internet connection you can communicate from any computer in the world. That form of security would take away from a primary goal.

Tom is not the only one who has to think carefully about his security either. The fact is whether a person is aware or not of MySpace – they should be.

As anyone can create an account for someone else, although fraud, it still happens. There are many situations where fans have created a MySpace for their favourite celebrities. Now don’t get me wrong, many fans will do this to help. Although a majority will not and this is why everyone needs to be aware of what is being said under their name.

Then there is the likes of Cyber-Bullying which is becoming more common in today’s technical era. One of the reasons is due to how it affects the victim. The fact that the words about them are global and not just between them and the bully has resulted to cases of suicide.

Though with most things in life there is a productive use for something and then there is a group who wants to stop it or simply to harm in some way.

There is not an easy answer as to how MySpace can deal with such monstrosities but one thing is for sure, something needs to change. Whether it hinders the usability for the honest user is up to the management to decide. They could go down the Paypal route by proving your identity to a certain extent but I am fairly sure that would deter many users from signing up.

The fact that MySpace is easy to sign up to and you can make new friends with ease could result in its charm being lost.

As usability goes for me I am certain to use it in my professional life. If at least not just for a more advanced curriculum vitae it should hopefully allow me to connect to colleagues more easily. The more MySpace continues to grow the easier it will be to connect with more people.

So is MySpace a waste of space? Well that is for you the public to decide.

I will leave you with this video which sums up MySpace in a nutshell the good the bad and the ugly.

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