Those of you who were teenagers or tweeners in the early 2000's, probably remember Myspace, the big dog in town before Facebook came along to steal it's thunder. Even once accounted for over 4% of all US website visits. That's a lot, and it was a place for friends, and a crazy vortex of sparkly, unicorn gifs, and bad emo songs.
And while Myspace had problems with spam, and poor design that ultimately led to it's downfall, plenty of folks do still miss it. And now, a MySpace clone called SpaceHey, that popped up in late 2020, already has a user base well into the six figures. But, why has it become popular all of a sudden? Is it just a nostalgia rush for those of us who miss a simpler time, or is it really offering something the big social networks don't?
Well, aside from the combo of millennials wanting a blast from the past, and Zoomers curious about the way things used to be, SpaceHey is actually notable for what it doesn't have. According to a developer, a teenager from Germany, there are no algorithms that try to feed you content that's addictive, spammy, or annoying. So, forget about a feature that's like TikTok's For You. There isn't even a Like function, or a newsfeed, pushing posts at you. So SpaceHey clearly isn't built for chasing your dopamine fix.
In fact, there are no algorithms at all. And no ad tracking, meaning it's a lot like the older web where you had a relatively blank slate, strobing banner ads not withstanding, that you populate it with whatever you wanted to say, or to show to people, and that was kind of it.
SpaceHey profile pages themselves are almost an exact replica of Myspace. You get a small profile photo, an about me section, a prominent area that displays people you friended, and any comments they may have left for you, as well as a section to list interests.
Blogging, forums, and instant messaging are all supported, as well as custom HTML and CSS, so you can make your profile page just as gaudy and terrible as it was when Myspace ruled the world. That's a bad idea, by the way. Custom HTML is like really exploitable. But, that's about the end of the feature list.
SpaceHey feels like a foil for the major social media services like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, which are extremely pervasive in our lives. Not just because we use them so much, but because when we do use them, there are always so many things jockeying for our attention. Between promoted ads, algorithmically optimized outrage, and people trying to dunk on each other in the replies, many users report feeling overwhelmed, and burnt out. And the algorithms can't work without collecting lots of data on our lives and preferences. So, it isn't surprising that these services, notably Facebook, have been embroiled in huge amounts of controversy over how this data is handled. And even when it isn't, the companies themselves misusing the data, there's a strong argument to be made that the post as often as you can nature of these services, promotes oversharing, and this feeling of having your life being made a little too public.
Combine it with controversies over disinformation, and low self-esteem promoted by these algorithms, and it shouldn't be surprising that enough people just, they want some kind of alternative they can at least use on the side. Of course, we're not going to save SpaceHey is going to be the next big social media giant, but it's not trying to be. It's likely to remain a niche service for the curious, the exhausted, and the minimalist. But, isn't that just what we might all need these days?
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