MySpace, is the way it measures popularity fundamentally flawed?

October 8, 2006

As we all know, the more friends you have the more popular you are. That’s kind of how it works in real life and MySpace has tried to emulate that in the online world. Getting people to connect to you as friends in MySpace isn’t difficult at all, in fact you’ll probably find yourself contacted and asked to become a friend by some really random people!

Within days of setting up a profile you’ll find yourself contacted to be friends with all manner of music artists, people offering ways to get rich quick, girls advertising their porn and other people you probably don’t really want to be friends with at all. You’ll even find people posting on your bulletin board to promote themselves or their band.

This kid of shameless promotion amounts to spam and is one reason I never visit MySpace, but it does lead me to wonder about how popular some profiles actually are.

For example, take a smalltown rock group, they get their friends to connect with them but their still not getting noticed. So they start actively spamming people asking to be friends and get connected as that will help their popularity. Many people accept the requests, foolishly thinking that the band may actually want to talk to them, a large percentage of these profiles get left for dead (as do many MySpace profiles) and so the band has a friend for life (or until MySpace start killing innactive profiles).

I guess my question is whether MySpace should start looking for another way to rate profiles. Perhaps move away from having as many contacts as possible and measure it on active contacts (ie. ones that interact in some way with each other). This would make the community far more valid and also much more useful to your average web user. All the while people are spamming other users there is no validity in the ‘more friends, more popular’ adage for MySpace.

Of course the chances that any of this will change are slim as a lot of the popularity of MySpace is derived from the very people who this spam and friend gathering stems from. I believe that MySpace will hit a critical point where it becomes so unusable due to spam etc that they will begin to lose users, and I don’t think that’s all that far off.

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