A teenager in Germany — who was only a toddler when MySpace originally launched — has launched spacehey, a social network that reboots MySpace's aesthetic and design flow. You fill out your interests (inputting links with hand-forged HTML), friend other folks, write blog posts and post pics/videos, chat via messages.
The goal, the creator notes, is to recapture some of the slow-cooking vibe of the early social web, before the major networks created feeds … and quickly realized that algorithmically juking the most hotly emotional content to the top, all day long, could entice people into endless jittery fight-or-flight doomscrolling, the better to baste their visual cortices with ads.
Fast Company spoke to the creator, and pointed out the value of experiencing, however briefly, this chill-er, algorithmless version of social networking …
In particular, An was drawn to the idea of customization. Like MySpace itself, SpaceHey encourages users to tweak their profiles, either with basic HTML tags (for things like bold, italics, or blinking text) or inline CSS, which lets users deck out their pages with custom fonts and background images. That's not possible on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, he notes, "where the design of every profile looks exactly the same."
What stands out even more than those stylistic elements, however, is the sense of innocence that SpaceHey managed to capture from the early days of the social web. All profile pages are public; they appear in a menu that anyone can browse through, and anyone can see everyone else's friend lists. There are no news feeds or algorithms vying for your attention, and no pressure to perform for likes or retweets. Chronological comments and the occasional blog post are as dynamic as the site gets.
The result is an experience that feels less addictive than Facebook or Twitter. But of course that's part of the allure. Time and again we've seen those companies fail to tamp down misinformation and toxic content, thanks to deliberate policies or algorithms that reward extremism. Seeing a site like SpaceHey reminds us that the internet wasn't always wired that way.
BTW, my first post was about how I discovered — while filling out my "interests" for my spacehey profile — that spacehey has a low-fi curseblocker ban-list, which blocks the word "dick", and … which thus wouldn't let me write "Emily Dickinson" in my "interests".
I'm generally super fond of online experiments that show how people can publish thoughts online without the casinofied quantification of today's major social networks. One of my favorite experiments here is still txt.fyi, created by Boing Boing's Rob Beschizza, which I wrote about for Wired here, in a column about "antiviral" web design.