myspace.com, currently pushing 100 million members, is attracting a lot of commercial attention. What happens when a lot of people gather at one site on the internet? They get targeted for viruses, spam, and all sorts of advertising overload – of course!
Today was a weird day for me on myspace. I don’t normally chat with friends there, leave comments, send messages, etc. I’m linked up with everyone, and browse profiles from time to time, but I wouldn’t say I’m a heavy user. Today:
– I received 10 MySpace messages
– I received 9 Friend requests
Of the above 19 interactions:
– 1 message was from a fake account fronting a porn site
– 4 friend requests were from fake accounts fronting porn sites
– 2 messages were from fake accounts telling me I have a “nice profile” and promoted a site called easygifs.com (don’t bother going there, I’m sure they’re trash)
– 2 friend requests were from local Seattle bands I’d never heard of, obviously looking for an audience to promote to
– 3 friend requests and 5 messages were from people I believe to be legitimate (although I don’t know them)
– 2 of the messages were from someone I knew (Marysharon)
So, nearly half of the activity today was spam. If I had to estimate, I’d say about 5% of my regular e-mail is spam – and virtually all of it is caught by my mail client’s spam filter. So, from a percentage basis I’m already seeing myspace to be a bigger spam problem than the e-mail address I’ve had for years.
This is only going to get worse. Myspace is getting crawled by bots and their users are being targeted. The bots can grab your location, name, gender… anything in your profile. This is an example of what Dare was talking about in his blog post today about people getting exposed on craigslist. How do you create an online social network that lets people act freely (arguably what made myspace so popular) but protect them from one another?
Myspace already had to deal with some of this already, but there will be plenty more to come. I think their message feature is going to have to be among the first things they overhaul, because right now it’s being seriously abused. I think a decent first step would be to require a captcha at all points of “initial contact.” That is, you’d need to solve a captcha before asking someone to be your friend, or before you send someone a message who isn’t already your friend.
As soon as they build that, I’d love to work with someone on an Amazon Mechanical Turk-based captcha breaker that we can sell to spammers. I love technology.