David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

Why Does MySpace Suck So Badly?

In an effort to spread the word about my book Infoquake, I’ve been experimenting with several social networking services. I now have a LiveJournal that cross-posts what I post here, I’ve got a space at MySpace, I’m linked in to LinkedIn.

MySpace is far and away the most popular of these types of services. According to Alexa, MySpace ranks only below Yahoo and Google in terms of popularity on the web. If you’re curious, you can view my page at http://www.myspace.com/davidlouisedelman.

Screen shot of David Louis Edelman's MySpace pageHere’s the problem: MySpace is an abomination. Nothing works. The things that do work are poorly designed and shoddily implemented. Here’s just a small sampling of problems I’ve been having:

  • Member search doesn’t work. Try searching for members using multiple criteria, and watch the search go splat. (Then again, Yahoo’s member search has been broken for years and nobody seems eager to fix it.)
  • Importing contacts doesn’t work. I tried importing my online address books from Yahoo, GMail, and AIM. MySpace said it sent out a dozen or so invites. It didn’t, and I had to redo the whole thing by hand.
  • Instant messaging doesn’t didn’t work. I tried sending a friend a message just to see what it would do, only to receive a very unprofessional-looking error message stating that the instant messaging was out of commission.
  • Cross-posting from WordPress doesn’t work. I have managed to get this working with LiveJournal (http://david-l-edelman.livejournal.com if you’re curious) using a nice little plugin I found on the web. There used to be one of these for MySpace, but the plugin developer gave up because MySpace kept mucking with the API.
  • Reporting spam doesn’t work. This morning I received friend requests from kinkymonica, flirtymonica, and luvymonica. How do you report these friend requests as the porn spam they so obviously are? You can’t.
  • Approving your friends doesn’t work. I’m currently staring at my “approve/deny your friends” queue, which states that I’m looking at “Listing 1-6 of 6.” Only about an inch away, however, there’s another column that says “1 of 1.” And below, there’s nothing listed. Do I have five phantom friends? (Actually, that would explain a lot of things…)

To add to the functional problems, the site is full of the worst kind of design heresy. Boxes float around the page with seemingly no rhyme or reason. The default icons look like rejects from your old Windows 3.1 installation. Navigation seems to float around the screen in illogical places, to the point where the only button I can rely on is the browser’s Back button. Things get even worse when users start mucking with their MySpace designs and adding polls and plug-ins and garish animated GIFs. You get stuck with endless pages that take forever to load and are impossible to read.

The worst sin of all is that MySpace plays multimedia files without asking you first. My first reaction to any page that starts blaring music or video at me is to immediately click the Back button and run like hell. In order to turn off the music at MySpace, you need to quickly scan the screen for the multimedia player — which is in a different place on each page — and click the Stop or Pause button. But even then, your preference doesn’t stick, so if you go to a different site and come back later, the music starts blaring again. (Only this time it starts playing faster because the page is in your browser cache.)

Recently MySpace attempted to ameliorate this by adding a preference you can set to turn off the automatic music. Surprise: it doesn’t always work.

The question that I have is that why hasn’t MySpace made full use of open standards, the most successful example of social networking on the web to date? Take a look at the source code for your MySpace page, and it’s a mess. No DTD at the top, style sheet links embedded in the middle of the body, tables mixed with DIVs mixed with IFRAMEs willy-nilly.

And I’m not just talking about open standards determined by some committee in Switzerland, but web design standards that have won the long, hard Darwinian slog in the marketplace. Navigational sidebars. Underlined links. Fluid layouts that don’t break on different screen resolutions. Different colors for visited links.

The popularity of MySpace is enough for me to reevaluate all of the design credos I hold so dear. If such a horrible website as this can become a cultural phenomenon and literally change the way American teenagers live their lives, then what hope is there for web standards?

My only consolation is that the Firefox AdBlock extension works just fine on MySpace. Not only that, but Userscripts.org has a bevvy of useful Greasemonkey scripts to turn bad MySpace pages into — well, less bad MySpace pages.

Comments RSS Feed

  1. Simon Haynes on August 8, 2006 at 4:20 am  Chain link

    I agree. I signed up with Myspace a week or so ago (and thanks for adding me as a friend) and the whole ‘experience’ reminds me of those half-assed computing projects I used to hack out of thin air only to abandon a week later. Forms that go nowhere, buttons that do nothing, a crappy user interface and the suspicion that all code behind the facade is running on scripts written when the whole thing ran with half a dozen users.
    When I joined I had one friend (Tom, added by default.) I deleted them (Hey, I’m a geek. I’m used to having 0 friends) but since then I’ve had N friends + 1. Now, the last time I had an imaginary friend I was very, very young, so perhaps this a sop to new Myspace users, but it’s still irritating to a computing professional.
    The Networking links go nowhere, and today I saw the submit buttons all had ‘btn’ prefixes, as if someone forgot to rename the defaults. The site often hangs or delivers half pages, but I’ve discovered a quick F5 will usually load it correctly.
    Many other flaws discovered, marvelled at, and worked around. E.g. discussions with 3 pages, where the last page is blank. Groups with new posts – click, and discover the new post is by me. Whoopie.
    If only blogger would add similar networking features we’d be right, but Myspace is truly awful. THIS is used by millions?

  2. David Louis Edelman on August 8, 2006 at 9:06 am  Chain link

    Glad you agree with me, Simon. The sad thing is, the site probably is running on scripts written when the whole thing was just Tom. I mean, what incentive do they have to fix things when people (like us) keep signing up?

  3. tobias s buckell on August 8, 2006 at 9:37 pm  Chain link

    Why did Mac users stick with a user-allocated memory system with crash issues in the middle 90s, why do Windows users still use Windows now with OS-X? The superiority of interface has nothing to do adoption rates. It’s who’s using it and passing the meme along and momentum :-) There are also indications that BAD web interface design actually increases traffic and attention from users, as they’re forced to engage with the product further.

    As for myself, I have a myspace account, but it also annoys the &*%^ out of me as well.

    The fact that myspace took off into something so big so quickly also now means the creators are stuck with it :-)

  4. David Louis Edelman on August 8, 2006 at 9:58 pm  Chain link

    Well, the Windows/Mac thing was a different case; everyone knows that Windows machines are drastically cheaper and run zillions more programs than Macs. I’m not saying that means they’re better machines, but at least there’s a rationale for going Windows.

    But all these networking sites are free. You’d think that with price being equal, a good interface might tip the balance to some other service. But I guess not.

    There are also indications that BAD web interface design actually increases traffic and attention from users, as they’re forced to engage with the product further.

    Now, that’s interesting. Have any good links to stories about that phenomenon?

  5. Simon Haynes on August 9, 2006 at 6:15 am  Chain link

    The success of Myspace shows that people will cluster to the service with most users. Why the first people clustered there is anyone’s guess.
    Perhaps this Tom guy bred them in caves and allowed them a PC/XT with a CGA screen for 30 minutes a day. Myspace is clearly a step up from that, although not a big one 😉

  6. John Joseph Adams on August 9, 2006 at 2:07 pm  Chain link

    One thing I think you forgot to mention is that the site does not seem to be secure *at all*. Check your login page. You know, the one where your *password* is being entered? It’s not secure. It’s just a regular http page.

    Perhaps because of this, it’s pretty easy for people to hack myspace accounts. Someone did that to mine, and used it to post some bulletin with a link to porn or something. I just noticed it seems to have happened to someone else. One of F&SF’s friends had a bulletin linked to porn (and the bulletin itself had a full XXX animated gif playing in it). But when I clicked over to the user’s profile, it’s clear she wasn’t the one that posted that.

    But yeah, I agree with everything you said about it.

  7. David Louis Edelman on August 9, 2006 at 2:22 pm  Chain link

    Suuuuure, JJA, “someone” hacked into your MySpace account to post porn. Suuuuure. That was someone else, not you. :-)

  8. gary gibson on August 9, 2006 at 7:58 pm  Chain link

    Thanks for adding me too, Dave …! Yeah, the layout sucks mightily, and it hurts me extra because I designed web pages in the distant, distant past and even my worst, earliest efforts didn’t look as bad as the MySpace pages. Maybe part of the reason for the lack of functionality/design is that the primary audience – still a hard core of teens and twentysomethings, or so I believe – aren’t the type inclined to complain or care.

    One thing it *does* do well, in my opinion, is play music. The fully integrated player loads and works in a way stuff like realplayer and windows media player just don’t. Plus, it sounds a lot louder than the two latter pieces of software, for that matter. If you’re there to browse music, it’s excellent.

    On the other hand it does slow my cheap laptop down … and I hate clicking onto someone’s page and it automatically loads music without asking me first, so I have something blasting at me while I wait for firefox to let me switch it off … bah, mutter, grumble …

  9. David Louis Edelman on August 9, 2006 at 8:20 pm  Chain link

    Good to make your acquaintance too, Gary. (Btw, do you know why your blog isn’t giving off any RSS or Atom feeds…?)

    I suppose if I was inclined to search for new bands, MySpace would be a good place to go. But I’m just fine right now with my rapidly calcifying early-70s-to-early-90s rotation.

    FYI, two of those aforementioned Greasemonkey scripts that have made MySpace bearable for me: the Automatic MySpace Media Remover just wipes out the built-in media player altogether, and the MySpace Custom Style Remover wipes out all custom styles. Yeah, forces every profile back to the same, semi-readable default template. Thank God.

  10. Luke on August 9, 2006 at 8:52 pm  Chain link

    You did realize a point… MySpace sucks, but most of the terrible coding is to prevent users from doing bad things with styles, and culling data from the site. It’s also why all the styles you see are imbedded into the body instead of between heads like they belong. MySpace forces users to implement any stylesheets by posting them into the ‘About Me’ section. It strips any javascript, and any CSS IDs as well, so you can only define classes and objects. Tricky people have managed to work around that by creating overlays, and still manage to spam porn on the site, but it’s nearly impossible to get anything useful out of the search when you mangle it even slightly. It’s that damnedable random seed, yar, gives ya a token. It also makes baby jesus cry. The only reason I even happened across this post, was due to a search for making myspace work with topstyle, so I can make MySpace ‘my space’ , instead of some god awful puke of a page with tables that fly everywhere because of poorly assembled user styles. Go figure.

  11. gary gibson on August 10, 2006 at 7:38 am  Chain link

    “Btw, do you know why your blog isn’t giving off any RSS or Atom feeds…?”

    Really?? Shit. This might be down to the fact I haven’t done any real html since, er, 1996/97 (like I said, loooong time, self-taught, and I’ve forgotten most of it) and the blog is based on a (probably badly) modified early blogger template.

    It’s set to have a blog feed in blogger preferences, but maybe there’s something that should be in the page html that isn’t … arse. Thanks for the tip.

  12. Eric on August 15, 2006 at 9:58 am  Chain link

    Don’t forget, Friends are organized by some arcane system, not alphabetically or by add date or anything. Other than the top 8, if you want to find someone in your forest of friends, you’d better hope they’re currently using a familiar photo.

    To make matters worse, they’ve closed and/or hidden all their APIs for anything useful. And anyone who tries to reverse-engineer something to make a useful tool gets a C&D letter from News Corp.

    I’ve heard rumour that the whole site is getting rewritten in ASP.NET. That should be exciting, as aaaall the hacks that everyone is using to pretty-fy their myspace layouts and such will probably just up and break.

    As far as I can tell, Myspace got popular early merely because it was accessible and had some specialty content. Friendster had a shot, but the server was too slow and there was no “band”-specific content. Orkut was a contender, but it was not open to subscription and too geek-centric to gain much of a hip teenage following. Along comes Myspace, where anyone can post messages to all their favorite bands…how could it not be a success? Right place, right time.

  13. tobias s buckell on August 17, 2006 at 3:13 am  Chain link

    I can’t find the bad design link, it was on problogger or Seth Godin’s site I think a while back. I’ll try to remember where I saw it.

    everyone knows that Windows machines are drastically cheaper and run zillions more programs than Macs. I’m not saying that means they’re better machines, but at least there’s a rationale for going Windows.

    Everyone ‘knows’ that about price but it isn’t necesarily true :-)

  14. dolly on August 21, 2006 at 6:58 pm  Chain link

    myspace sucks – the only good thing about it is you can read about how pathetic your ex-friends lives have become…

  15. CG Garcia on August 22, 2006 at 9:50 pm  Chain link

    I like myspace, it’s just that there are bulletins posted by me THAT ACTUALLY REALLY AREN’T POSTED BY ME offering a referral program to get free laptops!! Does anyone know how I can stop that? I’ve changed my password because it twice, and it still does it!

  16. ronelle on September 4, 2006 at 10:14 am  Chain link


    I was trying to find an answer to a question & came across your site. I have to admit myspace does have some huge flaws but it certainly aint stoppin us from wanting to be on it… so here’s my question. I have a myspace account but would like to set up a music one but for some reason when the sign up page loads it never includes a submit button, so technically I can’t submit. Any ideas?

  17. David Louis Edelman on September 4, 2006 at 11:19 am  Chain link

    Ronelle: Did you try just hitting the Enter button on your keyboard after filling out the form? Some forms will let you submit them that way. Other thing to check is whether the Submit button has gotten scrolled off the screen or behind some other element on the page.

  18. ronelle on September 4, 2006 at 8:48 pm  Chain link

    Hiya David, I’ve tried hitting every button including enter. I don’t think the page is loading completely because it only ever gets as far as which country your from & when I fill that box in it shows “error on page”. Kinda bites.. thanx for the advice! :)

  19. amanda on September 6, 2006 at 4:25 pm  Chain link

    isnt myspace safe if you use right

  20. Sergik on September 7, 2006 at 4:19 pm  Chain link

    I tried cross posting from wordpress…nothing looks to work and gave it up..

    Tried this flash rss reader…after 2 hours of tweaking, it did not work. Dummm

    Looks myspace is programmed by a novice…


  21. Ash on October 19, 2006 at 8:40 am  Chain link

    Myspace is clunky and shit. The code an abhorrent combination of divs and tables – TABLES!! Oh dear

    Its all written with Coldfusion and Fusebox, but really badly. All the modules don’t talk to each other properly.

    There is also no load balancing to speak of.. It just throws up a vague error if one of the CF modules fails, which they do, a lot…

    Coldfusion Fusebox wasn’t really designed for high traffic sites such as this. It would be far better to use a non Java server platform.

    I wouldn’t mind betting it still runs on MySql as well… It could definitely do with more robust data handling, at the very least Postgres…

    All in all, I have given up using it. It is just so frustratingly amateurish and bad. It looks and feels like a college project.

  22. Jaydon on December 1, 2006 at 7:25 am  Chain link

    Anyone else having bother with myspace or is it just my pc?
    Last couple of days it seems it wont let me download any song from anywhere.
    Anyone having same bother – or anyone how to sort it?

  23. Ross on December 13, 2006 at 5:57 am  Chain link

    All in all, I have given up using it. It is just so frustratingly amateurish and bad. It looks and feels like a college project.

    Well, that’s the point. When you were a teenager, how much did you care whether things were polished, consistent and conforming to best-practices? The site is for youths who want to figure it all out (life, that is) for themselves, not professionals who have already done so. The shonky feel is probably why it appeals to the disorganised teenage mind. I’m not defending them; teenagers are ghastly creatures and I’d rather not have to share society with them. Thankfully it’s mutual and that works just fine.

  24. Deb on December 22, 2006 at 12:39 am  Chain link

    I am so frustrated with my Myspace blog section. I can’t customize it at all. I’ve tried everything, done the preview, got it the way I want it, and I keep getting the error message. Of course, all I want to do is change the background color, but it won’t download to choose, so I put the color code in manually and it will show up on the preview, but when I hit update, then go back to the page, the default color is still there.

    Does anyone know why this is happening?

    I’m a wanna-be geek, am learning basic programming (hubby is a DBA, and is delighted I am taking an interest in all this techie stuff)

  25. Ralph Dagza dot com on January 1, 2007 at 4:42 pm  Chain link

    Why I deleted my myspace account

    I finally deleted my Myspace account. I’ve been using Myspace since 2004, it was cool at the beginning because i get to meet new people. I enjoyed having a Myspace account not only that I can make friends, I can shamelessly plug my old websites a…

  26. The End of MySpace (David Louis Edelman’s Blog) on January 24, 2007 at 3:10 pm  Chain link

    […] reading: see my previous rants on Why Does MySpace Suck So Badly? and MySpace Spam or Clever […]

  27. thumperinflorida on February 2, 2007 at 6:37 am  Chain link

    On MySpace…..just wondering why it seems that photos float over each other. If you hit refresh a few times you will get the layout of photos as they should be? Happens in both Firefox and viewing it in IE??

  28. Mr. Slut on February 20, 2007 at 9:51 pm  Chain link

    Hi there,

    I didn’t read through your other comments to see if anyone has explained/corrected your views on some of myspace’s bug/features not working properly. Fact is, I don’t want to.

    I just wanted to let you know that some of these options you claim don’t work, do work… You’re just looking at them from the wrong perspective.

    Example; Not being able to stop media, such as music to stop playing by myspace’s optin to do so… This option DOES work, but it doesn’t control whether or not other pages will start playing music/media when you view it, it controls whether or not YOUR music files auto-play when someone else views your profile.

    Though I do see the validity in your complaint, there SHOULD be an option for things like this, but the truth is, you have absolutely no control over what happens when you visit another page.

    To many MySpacers, that is the beauty of MySpace. You can force people to view your page however you choose. You are The Master and Controller of your page, provided you don’t violate MySpace’s TOS.

    Unfortunately, it uses DHTML (where the “D” must stand for damaged), but with a little work, figuring ways to use the broken html, (especially with DIV overlays), you can create a visually pleasing, and functional page .

  29. ash on February 20, 2007 at 10:02 pm  Chain link

    omg bloody myspace blog,it is so crap!!!
    half the links dont work and just take u around the website for no reason, the background colour NEVER WORKS which pisses the SHITTTTT out of me

  30. kevo on March 8, 2007 at 11:37 pm  Chain link

    i think part of the appeal of myspace is the reckless freedom to do what the hell you can w/ your own page. try doing that anywhere else and you get some square ass method that a square ass developer thought of. simply put, teenagers and wannabe teenagers (both young and old) are rebels so they dont care about standards and perfectly aligned boxes. they just wannabe supercool.

  31. […] of course. (If you want to see a ColdFusion-based application gone horribly awry, look at all the flaws in MySpace.) But I don’t have some of the world’s best developers and billions of dollars in cash […]

  32. […] my misgivings about MySpace (which mainly have to do with the site’s design, functionality and usability — not its […]

  33. Henry on April 29, 2007 at 12:17 am  Chain link


  34. VfishV on June 30, 2007 at 6:25 pm  Chain link

    Individuality is key in the world at the moment…while there are many trends being followed, everyone inside of these trends might want to be the trendsetters… In myspace, you’re afforded the ability to be whoever or whatever you want to be with your space.

    Law, Order, and societal standards…should be left in your flesh and blood society. We’d be without many of the woderous objects we play with today if everyone followed the “standard rules.” For one, the world still might be a square. Let’s let people do what they want with their own little cozy nook on the web.

    And one last thing. You should always do your research before bashing something. For instance, the sound playing or not playing is a space creator’s choice for the myspace song modules. It’s not what you use to stop sounds from playing on other peoples site.
    All you need for that, my fine chap, is your very own volume control, neatly located in the bottom right hand corner of your screen.

    Hope this is helpfull but… not so worried if not.

  35. David Louis Edelman on June 30, 2007 at 10:06 pm  Chain link

    No problem, VfishV. My issue with MySpace isn’t so much the idea of people expressing their individuality… That’s great and I encourage it. My problem with MySpace is that it’s poorly designed, poorly architected, and never frickin’ works right.

    And people will see that over the next year or two when Facebook eats their lunch. :-)

  36. JWZoom on August 28, 2007 at 8:33 pm  Chain link

    I agree with David, but if you are looking to start your own social network site, like I am, what is the best software or approach? I am looking at phpfox for one. Is that the right direction? What happens as things change or technology advances, will I be able to keep up to date? As you can see, I’m new at this. I think I have a great niche market idea, but I’m just not a programer.

  37. dylangaine on September 15, 2007 at 5:33 pm  Chain link

    MySpace sole purpose is to generate revenue, even before media mogul Rupert Murdoch got his hands on it, thats why you will never be able get rid of spam or those annoying banners that also end up promoting spam. and even though this thread is related to technical issues, my point here is that when a company only focuses on generating revenue, then from the head down, they only care about keeping the site up enough to generating revenue and doing the least amount possible on other areas. they already got the numbers, they are the biggest fish in the pond, they no longer concern themselves with things like customer satisfaction.

  38. […] Why Does MySpace Suck So Badly? see here […]

  39. ladyeeiicy on August 7, 2008 at 9:59 pm  Chain link

    ayee daht is soo right ! myspace is jus suck ! daht all ima say .

  40. Cassy on November 9, 2008 at 11:43 am  Chain link

    Yeah, I think the reason that it is so popular, is because a monkey can do pretty much anything the website offers.

    Easy for the masses, I guess.

    How it’s become so addictive…I have no clue.

  41. Amy on February 26, 2009 at 12:47 am  Chain link

    Who cares? Myspace was just made for teenagers so they can talk to their friends and listen to music. Its not made for making books famous or anything. And I haven’t had any problems with my account. Everything works perfectly fine. So I honestly have no clue what you’re complaining about. && if you think myspace sucks so much, why are you wasting your time having one and complaining about it?

  42. guy dudeson on March 3, 2009 at 4:23 am  Chain link

    u guys are a bunch of homo haters. if u dont like it go make ur own website. pretty sure a website of this scale is going to have a few problems once in a while, ESPECIALLY when their implementing new features. Most of the stuff this guy seems to be having probelms with is most likely associated with user error, NOT myspace. so instead of listening to this fat ass bitch about this awesome FREE website we should all find something better to do. While HE should probably quit being such a fat ignorant fag…. and go to the gym. and i’m guessing something DOES work or mysace wouldnt have millions of users. food for thought

  43. David Louis Edelman on March 3, 2009 at 9:12 am  Chain link

    And I haven’t had any problems with my account. Everything works perfectly fine. So I honestly have no clue what you’re complaining about.

    Yeah, well, it’s been two and a half years since I wrote this blog post. They’ve fixed some things.

    if you think myspace sucks so much, why are you wasting your time having one and complaining about it?

    Notice I haven’t written anything about MySpace since 2006.

    u guys are a bunch of homo haters. if u dont like it go make ur own website… <snip>

    Let me give you a tip which will serve you well when you get to high school, “guy dudeson.” If the best you can do is call someone a “fat ignorant fag” from behind an anonymous email, you’ve lost your fucking argument.

  44. Stephanie on April 6, 2009 at 7:16 pm  Chain link

    this is sooooooooooo F****ing stupid myspace ROX!!!!!!

  45. Sam Hamilton on May 27, 2009 at 4:12 pm  Chain link

    you are right. From a social networking standpoint I much prefer facebook. And for music and art related activites I use http://www.putiton.com. It’s new but it has a lot of potential.

  46. Simon Pringle on July 6, 2009 at 8:57 am  Chain link

    Too right,David,you have taken the words right out of my keyboard…very irritating…why doesn’t Myspace just sort these things out or someone come up with a better “Myspace”!!…it’s amazing that they made so much money out of this.

  47. N. Beach on December 2, 2009 at 4:29 pm  Chain link

    MySpace is an abomination for all the reasons stated and many more. It’s so frustrating to me (as a web app developer) that they have more money than God and they still haven’t hired some usability designers to make it a decent site.

    I just signed up again last night for a band I’m in, and it was a total nightmare creating the profile and uploading mp3’s. However, it is EXTREMELY valuable for musicians to network. I have no idea why anyone would use it for a personal social network, when Facebook exists.

    Some tips: use AdBlock and FlashBlock in Firefox to keep your computer from exploding.

  48. Ricky on December 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm  Chain link

    Myspace is the Shit it doesne suck you do, ha yeah you sucked my dik last nite!!!

  49. David Louis Edelman on December 16, 2009 at 3:23 pm  Chain link

    Thank you, Ricky, for proving my point.

  50. N. Beach on December 16, 2009 at 3:33 pm  Chain link

    That’s almost as good as a youtube comment. I wonder what a “dik” is…

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