Privacy friendly, customisable and no algorithms: An 18-year-old recreates a new functioning version of MySpace
When An’s gap year plans were put on hold due to the pandemic, he channelled a fascination for the early days of social media into a new way to connect.
- Lucy Bourton
- 27 April 2021
Despite the countless ways to connect with others online today, many still hold a nostalgic love for the early days of the internet. For those of us who were teens in the early 2000s, evenings were spent clung to the family computer. We’d plough through dinner just to log on to MSN or Tumblr, and while spending hours crafting our painstakingly detailed Piczo sites. Although mostly just chatting to the same handful of people you’d spent the day with at school, the internet felt like an endless world of connective creativity.
There were all new ways to curate your interests (adding your fave song to your MSN bio), showcase your personality (spending hours coding your MySpace colour palette) and even boast about your pals (via the friendship ending Bebo top ten). For An, a 18-year-old from Germany, this period of social media’s first steps had always fascinated him, hearing relics of “the good old days” passed down from older friends. And so, in a period where we’re all spending more time online, he decided to recreate one internet hub in particular, making the MySpace-inspired SpaceHey.
Driven by a want to create a platform with far more customisable options, as well as an algorithm-free space to connect with others, SpaceHey is simply built from the conclusion “that there is no place comparable to MySpace nowadays on the internet,” An tells It’s Nice That. In turn, on SpaceHey users are encouraged to be creative, to “gain inspiration, discover likeminded people and share content with their friends or the whole world.” To date this has led to a social media site that replicates the community aspect that MySpace grew, specifically in 2006/2007 where artists and musicians were “discovered” on its pages, in a “friendly and supportive community for all users.”
Individualism within this community is also encouraged, developed from An’s feelings that when looking at modern social media sites, “every single profile looks exactly the same,” he says. “There is no way for users to stand out by personalising their profile, changing the background, the colours, the layout, whatsoever.” To further support this individualism, SpaceHey also leaves room for users to form their own opinions, as “all modern social media sites have algorithms which track you, show you personalised ads and suggest new content,” says An. “That’s why I think there is a need for a platform like SpaceHey, which is privacy-friendly, chronological (no algorithms or suggested content), gives you full control of the design of your profile, and doesn’t have a 'Like' button,” he continues. “Through that, I aim to provide a ‘healthier’ and friendlier space on the internet.”
To actually build a site with all these capabilities, An first researched into the look and feel of MySpace. Spending time watching videos of its navigation and looking into archived screenshots, he also researched back into Twitter and Facebook’s early steps for inspiration. With MySpace offering a direct influence visually, bringing it to modern day expectations – such as ensuring it was mobile-friendly, while also matching the look and feel of the early 2000s – was An’s biggest hurdle to jump.
“It was way harder than I thought to match the feeling of a website at around 2006/2007, while always trying to avoid looking either too modern, or too ‘artificially old’,” he adds. “So yes, SpaceHey was heavily inspired by the design of MySpace, but it doesn’t strive to be an exact clone.” Also considering the fact he was building the site without actually ever using its main inspiration, An continually shared his process on Twitter. By updating followers on his growing progress, the designer offered potential users the opportunity to feedback on its development, advice that was then “directly incorporated into the first version of SpaceHey.”
Now fully up and running – and always evolving – An’s main hope is that the SpaceHey community will continue to grow in a friendly and open expansion. “The key goal of SpaceHey is always to have a friendly community!”
It’s an impressive accomplishment from an 18-year-old, especially when An explains that he only ended up setting up the site when his gap year plans were paused due the pandemic. Developed as part of a co-partnered project called Tibush, run by An and his older sister, the platform is a place for An to publish his software projects and experiments (like SpaceHey), whereas his sister runs a fashion arm creating T-shirts. Looking to the future, the range of creativity Tibush itself encapsulates is a factor he hopes moves over to SpaceHey further, as “everyone should be able to express their creativity and have a space to get to know new people.”
GalleryTibush: SpaceHey (Copyright © Tibush, 2021)
Tibush: SpaceHey (Copyright © Tibush, 2021)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.