Okay, some quick thoughts about MySpace:
I spent some time setting up my profile, tweaking the design and trying to grok the site a bit more, and get a better idea of what it does and how it ticks. I figured one thing out pretty quickly: The main profile page is where the action is, and though it's pretty straight-forward, the ability to add your own CSS is what makes all the pages so wacked-out. The crimes against good web design added by the members are pretty astounding, I have to say, but it's not like it's MySpace's fault in particular. This I didn't realize before - yeah, they could be more draconian like Spaces or Yahoo and only allow specific templates, but hey, I'm all for giving members power over their own page too.
The funny thing is how it's not really a "supported" feature - you have to add in your own markup to the "about" description. It took me a good half hour to figure that out. The blog design stuff has it's own template page you can tweak, but not the profile. After a bit, I finally figured out where to put the markup. Why they don't just add a new field for the CSS and make suggestions (you know, to help members design more reasonable pages?) I'm not sure. I guess it's one of those things that's just continued over time.
They need to put some serious money into infrastructure, every 5th page I loaded gave me an error. Wow. And I love this error when I clicked on the instant message link: "The IM is busted. It's not working. It is going to take a few weeks to fix. I will post an announcement when its fixed. -Tom" LOL. Gotta love it.
It's really quite the combination of other services, no? Almost all the features are like a list of the most popular web services out there. Here's a list of the stuff I found:
Profile, Browser and Search are your basic social networking stuff. Find matches based on interests, location, and sex in or outside of your network, so its sort of a Personals thing as well. They've got a FaceBook-type selection of schools too, so you can hook up with ex-classmates.
The Invite is your basic viral email sender - but with imports from Yahoo!, AOL and MSN (someone should send them a nastygram... getting people to give a third party your Y! ID and password is a nono).
The Ranking page is a straight Hot-or-Not rip off with user profile pics.
The "Mail" option is weird - it's not email, and it took me a good hour to figure out how to send a new message - you have to click on "send message" on somone's profile OR add the person to your Address Book first! Is this a social networking thing that I never noticed before?
Favorites is kind of nice - it lets you stalk hotties without them knowing it, or you can make the list public for everyone to see. I guess this is like a "light" version of asking to be someone's friend: Put them in your favorites and you can check them out without requesting a connection. Oh, that's the other interesting thing - you can only leave comments on a profile if you're that person's contact. That's cool... interesting way to get rid of spam and unwanted messages.
Forum is your basic bulletin board, with a link to UserPlane's Flash-based chat app on the top level. Not sure why they're not pushing Chat more and just getting rid of the forums all together.
Groups are sort of like Tribes, I guess? I joined one. Not sure what the real difference is between those and the forum threads, except maybe how they're organized?
Events is very cool actually - It's like Upcoming.org and all those social calendars. You can include anything from major happenings to your birthday party. It seems pretty full featured, actually - you can invite people via their email address (not just MySpacers), it automatically gets added to your personal calendar, and has one-click links to post it to your blog or post a bulletin about it. And they have the requisite Google Maps mashup as well. I bet it's a really popular feature (though I kept getting errors when I tried add a new event! Man they need some technical help!)
Games is just licensed and templated from Intermix Entertainment's grab.com - lots of Flash based games, exactly three of which are multiplayer.
Classifieds is a blatent Craig's List clone, down to the names of the topics. It's pretty empty in there right now - I can't imagine that teens do a lot of shopping for furniture or job hunting.
Then there's the personal features tied to your Profile like the Calendar and Address Book. Also there's now a Blog option as well (I guess this is new?), complete with the ability to customize the design (different from your Profile page) and even includes Podcasting enclosures in the RSS feed. I clicked on a lot of blog links and there really aren't a lot right now, so I think users are still focusing on their profiles and comments. They add Yet Another Group option which I don't get - the Blog Group. Again, I joined one, but have no idea what it means. You can also give people "Kudos" in your comments on other people's blogs also which I have no idea about. :-) There's a "subscribe" feature where you can add other MySpace member blogs (but not external ones), but there doesn't seem to be a way of marking posts as read, though, so it's just sort of a list of links organized by date.
Oh, hey, I finally figured out what that "bulletin" stuff was they were talking about in the Helio press release. It's a message sent to all your friends, but also sits on your profile page as well. I guess this is where Yahoo! 360 got their "blasts" idea from? ;-) And I see why 360 is so focused on the profile page as well. I still don't like that.
So the most innovative thing - and what I've read about before and thought was really the whole purpose of the site - is the Band profiles and now blogs. These are very cool -you can browse artists both signed and unsigned, see their profiles, add them as your "friends", subscribe to their blog, see videos and put their music on your home page. There's also lists of upcoming shows, and a directory of artists. Very cool stuff. Though, again, they add even more forums (Music forum) and another classifieds section!
Okay, so just browsing the profiles around I found lots of scantily clad men and women, which was sort of a nice bonus for my research efforts, but not nearly as much outright "porn" as I had thought. Risque is more the word than anything. The top unsigned music artists also happen to be really hot women, for example... no biggie. The comments are also a lot tamer than I thought as well, though the chat was outright vile (no surprise there).
I guess the next step in understanding the whole scene is to find someone who uses it for real and see what they actually get out of it. What's the really compelling features of MySpace? Then I'll be able to best understand what a mobile version of the site would really provide to its users, and maybe, just maybe, grok a bit more about the whole area.