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A Grand Unified Theory of YouTube and MySpace 166

Ant writes "Paul Boutin's Slate article explains the factors contributing to the success YouTube and MySpace: they are easy to use (usability), and they don't 'tell you what to do.'" From the article: "Both YouTube and MySpace fit the textbook definition of Web 2.0, that hypothetical next-generation Internet where people contribute as easily as they consume. Even self-described late adopters like New York editor Kurt Andersen recognize that that by letting everyone contribute, these sites have reached a critical mass where 'a real network effect has kicked in.'"
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A Grand Unified Theory of YouTube and MySpace

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  • Once myspace lets those kids design their own sites with their own colors (namely black on black) it sort of defeats the purpose of the site. I guess there isnt a way it could be fixed though.
  • by glassjaw rocks ( 793596 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {elzneikb}> on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:23PM (#15224007)

    isn't described by what the interface looks like or how easy it is to use.

    Everybody knows myspace is just a place to get laid

  • by puregen1us ( 648116 ) <> on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:24PM (#15224011)
    "They are easy to use (usability), and they don't 'tell you what to do.'"

    Which is one of the main reasons I hate MySpace. Aside from it being slow, I loathe that it is so easy to customise. It means that every person can mess up the CSS and HTML and destroy the look and feel of the site. By not telling people what to do they all run off and do things I that damage the site.

    Of course, they all think their own page with a flashing bright backgroud, three different audio tracks playing, and text that blends into the every other item to make it unreadable is just beautiful.
    • by Moqui ( 940533 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:27PM (#15224031)
      At least a side social benefit of MySpace is that people will be able to discover if they suffer from epilepsy earlier. Flashing text on a flashing background with scrolling neon menubars and CCR's "Fortunate Son" MIDI file playing on high = quality design.
    • by et764 ( 837202 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:30PM (#15224058)

      I haven't been to MySpace in a while, since I think it all looks like vomit, but another complaint I had was that the thing seems to be about 80% covered in ads, and the ads are placed in such a way that you can't tell what's an ad and what's part of the site.

      As far as usability, a good way for a site like this to run is to give everyone relatively limited customization. This way the site still provides a consistent look and feel, which is good for usability, but still lets users express themselves through whatever theme they pick. Let the people who know what they are doing design themes, and then give the users a way to customize them to suit their tastes.

    • I totally agree, and the predefined layout is (one of the main reasons) why I prefer facebook as a social networking site. Almost every time I have more than a couple tabs open of myspace pages my CPU utilization jumps to 100% until I kill my browser, this is due to all the junk people are allowed to put in their sites. The other problem is half the sites on myspace are virtually unreadable because of the color/image choices for the text & background. I agree social site's should give you a lot of fr
    • by AstrumPreliator ( 708436 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:34PM (#15224097)
      I completely agree with you. In fact if anyone were to create the next myspace it might be something like this (I wrote and sent this to a friend a while back to illustrate in a funny way why I hate myspace):

      I have co-designed a plan that will make us millions! We will create the next evolution of myspace. To pull this off our new social network needs to satisfy basic requirements to attract our key demographic - Emos, Hipsters, Fatties, and Douchebags. There requirements are...

      The site must lack any sensible form of navigation from within the site. All profiles should be as gaudy by default as possible. Even better they should be flash based rather than HTML and CSS based so a user who wishes to view the web page must download an inane amount of data to view a poorly designed and incredibly slow profile.
      Rather than only being able to play one song on a profile a user will be able to blaze multiple songs either concurrently or sequentially.
      Everything will have an opacity of 50% or less. Text should blend in with everything in the background making it difficult to read.
      Furthermore, all text shall be of size 9 and use the least legible font known to man - Comic Sans MS - and under no circumstance shall the text be white or black, to do so would defeat the purpose of making it unreadable.
      Several new feature shall also be introduced. One of which is dubbed "the knife" courtesy of RotoSequence. It is named as such to attract the Emo demographic in general. This feature will aid the non-navigability feature. There shall be no links to go to a paticular area of the website. All links shall bring you deeper and deeper into the bowels of the website forcing you to use the browser's "Back" button to navigate to a different part of the site.
      Another new feature fabricated by RotoSequence to attract the Emo demographic is the "Suicide Mood Selector". This will allow users to select their current suicidal mood, e.g. "You feel extreme angst, it's best to go the painless route and shoot yourself."

      If we follow these guidelines I'm sure we can create the next myspace and make millions. As always suggestions are welcome to help improve our vision of the future!

      Go ahead and mod me down if you think I'm a troll, but I had fun writing the above ;).
    • I think this is a symptom of the web as a whole anymore. In general, easier something is to do, the more the distribution of quality approaches a bell curve. That's what the web is today: myriad mediocre sites, with a spattering of terrible and excellent ones.

      Myspace is no different.

      The web should be hard!! When I was a kid, we hand-coded in vi, dammit!
      • Hey now, I still handcode in vi.
      • I do agree with you... but remember circa-1998 Geocities sites? Or background midis? There's always been crap on the web, but yeah, you're right; it's *easier* to put crap on the web now.

        However, I'd argue it's also easier to put cool stuff on the web now. The average blogging software tends to look good, as do a lot of the "ready-to-deploy" messageboards. The problem with myspace is it was horribly coded and designed from the beginning, and it took off in popularity. If some sexy, fast, and powerful web

      • The web should be hard!! When I was a kid, we hand-coded in vi, dammit!

        vi? You had vi? Hah. We had to toggle zeros and ones into the console with switches. And on bad days we didn't even had zeros. And we liked it! Uphill. Both ways. No, wait, wrong rant...

    • This seems pretty shortsighted to me. If you were around in 1997 you probably remember how horrid most personal websites were at the time. I even have a copy of my first website somewhere and it looks very amateur. But I remember that as my learning point. As I got more familiar with HTML i got better at design and doing what I really wanted to do with it. Truth be told, myspace has a very bad editor, and as editing becomes more intuitive I imagine people will start to do what they really want to do wi
      • Part of the problem is first of all the "cool" factor of all the flashing gizmos and so on. It's like seeing a word processor for the very first time - you just HAVE to make every second word a different font. More importantly, there are, at least for the moment, no IT lessons based around doing your website so it doesn't injure people - unlike for word processing. So, people won't realise that there is another way.
        I personally like a slick design when I see one (I'm little partial to, although it'
    • Given the quality of the posts on many myspace pages, unreadable text might be a very good thing.
    • This user style [] removes most crap on myspace.
    • I completely agree, so let me change your expeience on the site: greasemonkey. Go to and get the myspace scripts. No more ads, remove the custom CSS from profiles, remove the music, hell even add direct links to picture pages! (you know you go straight to the pics you perverts...)

      Greasemonkey kicks all kinds of ass, plain and simple as that.

    • by TCQuad ( 537187 )
      It means that every person can mess up the CSS and HTML and destroy the look and feel of the site.

      Aesthetics aside, the point of MySpace isn't to have a site with millions of users, it's to have a millions of sites linked to each other by users and friends. Your criticism is analogous to criticizing the personal sites on university servers for not having a consistent look and feel.
    • Which is one of the main reasons I hate MySpace. Aside from it being slow, I loathe that it is so easy to customise. It means that every person can mess up the CSS and HTML and destroy the look and feel of the site. By not telling people what to do they all run off and do things I that damage the site.

      I agree completely. That's why I never go to bars or clubs where they let the patrons dress themselves. Some people just end up wearing the ugliest shit, and it messes up the atmosphere when people have

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:24PM (#15224012)
    ...teenage girls

    OMG!!1! ponies!!!1!!
    • This isn't really just funny... it's true. Teenage girls use the web and other forms of communication a lot, and it has become more of a social thing to have a myspace account. It's true of guys, too, but it's along the same lines of girls playing more games... they just happen to play the flash and Yahoo! type games. I'd be willing to bet that there are more active female users of myspace than there are active male users.
  • Web 3.0 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reldruH ( 956292 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:24PM (#15224015) Journal
    Web 2.0: A website's value increases with the number of users creating content on it
    Web 3.0: A website's value increases with the quality of the content being created

    I like the whole concept of websites providing a framework where people create their own content and network, but the quality for most of these is terrible. I can only look at so many pictures of half naked drunk teenagers before I get sick of it. Hopefully the next iteration of the web will find some way to weed out the quality content (isn't that the reason we read Slashdot?) and provide more of that.
    • Re:Web 3.0 (Score:5, Funny)

      by Amonimous Coward ( 778781 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:28PM (#15224048)
      Web 4.0: Background music on the page is automatically blocked
    • Re:Web 3.0 (Score:4, Informative)

      by interiot ( 50685 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:35PM (#15224104) Homepage
      And, for the subject of user-created quality, I recommend listening to this week's This Week in Tech podcast [], where Kevin Rose talks about some of the inards of Digg, and how they have to do a lot of ongoing work to avoid letting Digg becoming a vehicle for spam, and that they implement an internal system of Karma. There are multiple parallels to both Slashdot's karma system, and Wikipedia's work that is done to prevent wikipedia from being used to promote spam, etc.

      (which is relevant, because once you have other people deciding what is quality and what isn't, the spammers want to jump in, pretend to be anonymous, and say Hey! my adverts are quality stuff everyone should look at!)

      • I think You-tube handles user created quality by simply saying "let all the quality stuff come from illegal user rips of copyrighted TV programs, etc."
    • Re:Web 3.0 (Score:3, Funny)

      by Scarblac ( 122480 )

      It must get worse before it can get better... web 2.1: server side blink [].

    • Re:Web 3.0 (Score:3, Insightful)

      by capnez ( 873351 )
      Web 3.0: A website's value increases with the quality of the content being created
      So Wikipedia (or at least the concept) is one major version number ahead of the rest of the web...
    • I can only look at so many pictures of half naked drunk teenagers before I get sick of it.

      I hereby propose a motion to declare reldruH (956292) banished from for reasons of not welcoming our half-naked Web 2.0 overlords, and, of course, for reasons of insanity.

    • I can only look at so many pictures of half naked drunk teenagers before I get sick of it.
      Yeah, after a while I get to the point where I want to see some entirely naked drunk teenagers.
    • Re:Web 3.0 (Score:3, Funny)

      by nEoN nOoDlE ( 27594 )
      To paraphrase Einstein,
      "I know not with which browser Web 3.0's content will be updated with, but Web 4.0's content will be updated with sticks and stones."
    • I can only look at so many pictures of half naked drunk teenagers before I get sick of it.

      My propensity to disagree with that statement is directly proportional to how drunk I am.

    • I dunno -- I think it's pretty easy to find quality content on, say, YouTube -- just rank your searches by vote. Until someone writes an algorithm that can suss out "quality" (a somewhat subjective term, don't you think), I'd say the 2.0 approach is a pretty good one.
  • myspace websites? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by joeldg ( 518249 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:25PM (#15224020) Homepage
    all the websites on myspace look like crap..
    it is just the new geocities combined with one of those social network sites.

    I am sure they make good money on ads..

    if I see a company with a mission statement that talks about giving stuff away, lots of venture capital and no product then I will really belive that bubble2.0 has arrived..

    • all the websites on myspace look like crap..

      I was about to accuse you of exagerating and being pointlessly mean. Then I actualy went to MySpace [], clicked on "browse" and opened 5 random pages.

      They all look like crap.

      I guess that's why I'd never gone to MySpace before today.
      • I am not sure if it the tools they are giving people or what..
        but if that is what web2.0 is "supposed" to look like then that site time travelled from about 1997 or so to now because the last time I saw that many sites with horrible frame-jobs and "wacky" animated gifs was in 1996 (and we were sick of it then)

        I have gone further and tried to find a single redeeming site on there.. I have yet to find one..

    • all the websites on myspace look like crap..

      that's why they're so successful really, myspace lets you see a million websites that look absolutely awful and make you feel better than those million people that made them. youtube lets you look at the video that some kid made of himself rapping, to let you feel a million times cooler than that kid. people like to have their own feelings of superiority fulfilled, that's your key to success in web 2.0.

      hell, even wikipedia is appealing to that on two levels

    • all the websites on myspace look like crap

      Jesus, you looked at *every single one of them???*
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:25PM (#15224023)
    If it please the court:

    Exhibit A []

    Exhibit B []

    The prosecution rests.

  • It's Funny (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:27PM (#15224029)
    You know, it's funny when you think about it. For years we've had tools for people to build any webpage they want, from pure HTML up to respectable WYSIWYG editors like Dreamweaver, and the "general public" never really accepted them. It's only when you take away all their powers to create something unique and individual, and instead give them all the same boring template systems of MySpace and blogs in general, that they actually use it.

    Was this the problem the whole time? We gave users the tools to create their own individual sites, when really they just all wanted to conform to the same one?

    • It's only when you take away all their powers to create something unique and individual, and instead give them all the same boring template systems of MySpace and blogs in general, that they actually use it.

      You bring up a very interesting point. This is something I've seen a lot lately and I wonder if it's an actual sales/marketing phenomenon. It seems like the more restrictive an application is in it's feature set the better it sells, at least initially. If a software (or any other product) is too br
    • Re:It's Funny (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Bogtha ( 906264 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @06:47PM (#15224534)

      It's not really that hard to understand. Say "you can publish whatever you want for the whole world to see", and they'll think "umm... like what?" and go blank. Say "put X, Y and Z particular things online so your friends can see them", and they've got a concrete example of what they can do, and probably quite a few examples of what their friends have already done.

      As a general principle, people are more likely to go for small, tangible goals than open-ended endeavours, even if the requirements and initial results are very similar.

    • In my (somewhat limited experience) although 'spaces' tend to look equally disgusting, they are quite original in the way they burn my retinas. They do appear to have a relative amount of freedom - not approaching HTML or so, but enough to cock up web design in ways noone thought of before.
    • Sure: a blank canvas would overwhelm most people.

      "Oh Jeezz ... where do I start?" isn't an issue with MySpace.
  • "In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." - Andy Warhol (1968)

    Then we should credit Andy Warhol as the father of "Web 2.0". I'm not a huge fan of his art, but I think this prediction accurately sums up such diverse phenomena as MySpace, YouTube, Bubb Rubb, reality TV, American Idol, and All Your Base. Whodathunk we'd actually see this come to pass?

  • by gentlemen_loser ( 817960 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:35PM (#15224101) Homepage
    I am soooo sick of hearing about "Web 2.0". Allow me to assist the Slashdotting public in understanding the definition of "Web 2.0":

    Web 2.0 (noun, currently, wait until next week when marketing people start using it as a verb) - definition 1 - the underlying goal of the Internet as it is now finally understood by marketing majors (12 years after it first began getting popular) who never studied in college and now need a term to throw around. Thank you, masters of the obvious.

    - definition 2 - Marketing term invented by group without any real technical knowledge (who did not study in school) to reflect the type of technology that frameworks such as AJAX are now offering. Note, there was never a "Web 1.5" when flash first came out because the marketing majors were still "playing catch up".

  • by Atomm ( 945911 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:36PM (#15224109) Homepage
    hey are easy to use (usability)

    I feel this is the single most important factor in any software design be it applications, games, websites, etc... However, I have a myspace site and I find it cumbersome. Editing different things on the page are in different places. It really feels like something a programmer threw together and not something that was designed with usability in mind.

    I come from a HTML background. Customizing MySpace has not been easy for me.

    I am not sure, but I believe that is why there are programs out there that will do it for you. If it was so easy to customize, I doubt there would be a market for middleware design apps.

    As for youtube, it is easy and straight forward. I would not call that usability, but it's just as good in my book.

    • I have to agree with you. I code my sites with XHTML and CSS from scratch, and when I was fiddling around with MySpace, I had to ask one of my friends where the code would go...and well...why does CSS code go in the 'about me' profile field? Isn't that...retarded? Why aren't the fields ID'ed properly? What does what field do? In the end I just went screw it. I'm not about to waste time figuring something out I already know because of bad design.
  • by Skadet ( 528657 )
    Q: What's something kids love that's ugly, bloated, slow, and constantly goes down on them?

    A: Michael Jackson!

    Uh, I mean, MySpace!!
  • Youtube (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Have Blue ( 616 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:42PM (#15224144) Homepage
    Can someone explain the YouTube business model? It neither directly charges its users nor sells ad space, and streaming video takes a ton of storage and bandwidth. How are they keeping it up?
  • google pages? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Janek Kozicki ( 722688 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @05:43PM (#15224153) Journal
    I'm not using myspace, nor I ever will. But that reminds me of google pages.

    Just today my wife complained that she had no easy way of publishing photos of our two small dughters (2 year old, and 1 month old) since I turned down my websever and never found time to bring it back up. Quick thought about google pages, and I logged her with her gmail account. She created a webpage with drag'n'drop in just three minutes and she was in hurry, because she was just leaving for a bus. Before she left I could give URL to some of my friends. I was amazed at how google pages were easy to use.

    She is not a techie :)
    • Re:google pages? (Score:3, Informative)

      by et764 ( 837202 )
      It will be interesting to see how Google Pages works out, since they are now also in the "everyone should be able to make a web page easily" camp. I was playing with it some last night. It didn't get along with my browser very well (Firefox on Linux). The site was incredible unresponsive. I'd type a couple sentences and then go off and IM for a couple of minutes as I watched the characters slowly appear one by one on the page. I don't suppose anyone else has found a way to fix this?

      What's a cool thing
      • You should investigate your firefox installation. She is using debian sarge and galeon 1.3.20 (which uses firefox 1.0.x engine under the hood). Webpage editing worked flawlessly. Oh - she is using all that just because I installed it on her computer. Later she learned about firefox, but chosen galeon anyway.
        • oh, on my computer galeon uses firefox 1.5 as rendering backend. And it works too (but I didn't bother to check with dragging pictures around with mouse, just typing text).
    • But... but... why overcomplicate things by using Google Pages? Flickr [] is pretty badassed, and is geared directly towards what she's trying to do.
      • But... but... why overcomplicate things by using Google Pages? Flickr is pretty badassed, and is geared directly towards what she's trying to do.

        because it's just yet another darn different website. She already has gmail account, so she already has google pages. Why bother checking the alternatives when what she has works? And when she is leaving for a bus in four minutes?

        Besides I didn't ever took time to check out flickr. But I've spend five minutes one month ago to play with google pages. Yes, I m
      • Maybe because every single image on flickr is reduced to an incomprehensible blob of pixels due to some stupid image compression gizmo? I still don't understand how people manage to post any pictures on that site when all images are reduced to the resolution of NTSC.
        • You can still get at the original uploaded image (unless the person who uploaded it specifically disabled that). And they're not that badly compressed anyway.
  • I must have been asleep in the class where we went over the 'textbook definition of Web 2.0'.
  • TFA: Both YouTube and MySpace fit the textbook definition of Web 2.0

    Anybody know where I can get a copy of this textbook?

  • by Odiumjunkie ( 926074 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @06:05PM (#15224295) Journal
    "they don't 'tell you what to do.

    More like, you p0st t0 t3h int3rw3b without being labled a noob.

    /. doesn't "tell you what to do", but you get modded down if you post in bold ALL CAPS and you LOL too much. LOL! On myspace, you get +3 cool points for choosing a retarded colour scheme with broken CSS, and on YouTube you get thousands of video views for posting "OMG guy gets hit IN THE BALLS! LOL!" or badly cut south park excerpts.

    Like all lowest common denominators, these mainstream websites require no real thought, effort, consideration or engagement. It's nothing to do with the internet, it's everything to do with people.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    According to my extensive research, MySpace can be described by a non-abelian gauge theory with special unitary group SU(CK). Most of its pages are homeomorphic to terrible Geocities pages from 1997. Chromodynamic theories suggest that unlike the red, green, and blue of quarks, the colors of a MySpace page are limited to fluorescent pink, black, and a text color whose hue is optimized to minizime contrast with the background. An currently unresolved question is whether every page on my space is invariant
  • by TheBeansprout ( 926731 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @06:10PM (#15224334) Homepage
    Are the reason that Myspace and Youtube are successful. All they care about is meeting people, chatting away and sharing photos (and the blokes just want to hit on the girls.) And much like in real life, people congregate towards a central place that is free, available and simple to use.

    Myspace is the carpark of the internet, and YouTube is the cinema :)
    • No, myspace is the inside of a bunch of 14 year old girls' lockers. Popularity is based on how many 'friends' one has, coolness defined by how totally fucking batshit someone's "design" is (if flashing, tiled, animated gif backgrounds and shitty-quality imbedded videos can actually be referred to as design).

      People do not congregate towards things that are free, available, and simple to use... they follow "everyone else" to trends that the misinformed take as gospel. A person may be smart, but generally 'p

  • by Rooked_One ( 591287 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @06:25PM (#15224411) Journal
    myspace is 'contributing' much. I mean, its all good if I want to know what 14 year old thinks brad pitt is hot or whatever, but as far as contributing to the intellectual community of the internet... well, I think calling myspace a glorified AOL would be pretty sufficient.
    • well, I think calling myspace a glorified AOL would be pretty sufficient.

      No, because AOL is an ugly interface that provides plenty of used-to-be-exclusive content. And MySpace is an interface requiring users to make ugly and provide a mixure of original and non-exclusive content (much of it duplicated on a half dozen other social networking sites).
  • by R3d M3rcury ( 871886 ) on Friday April 28, 2006 @08:08PM (#15224958) Journal
  • by Allnighterking ( 74212 ) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @02:13AM (#15226458) Homepage or maybe or even
  • I'd rather spend the end of my days trawling sites half-naked chicks rather than the sites I see advertised here, mine included

    Excuse me now, but I've something urgent to deal with...

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault