I’m not sure when they did it since I’m not a constant user, but MySpace has come out with another flawed improvement on their site. All external links are hidden behind msplinks.com redirects. What does this mean? Well, when you hover over a link that leaves myspace, you’ll see in your status bar a link to http://www.msplinks.com/randomstring1Y29tLw== instead of the actual site. Tom’s reasoning for this is to deter spammers from linking because the redirect can intercept the URL if it is spam. Another reason they are doing this is to look better in the eyes of Google and to disassociate with bad neighborwebs. Sites that link to spam or are related to spam in some way are knocked down in their standing.

Although it means well, this is a big step backwards from a web design and usability standpoint. I think it an essential feature of internet browsing that I can preview the location of a page. Now when I want to click a link, I don’t know if where it will take me. So now I must rely on myspace’s judgment to decide for me. And to top it all off, now users are going to behave differently to blind links. It may vary among certain myspacers, but I have a hunch that people will click link more often than they would otherwise. This is not protecting the user. People will be questioning what link goes where based solely on context of the link. So I could have a text link but could link to any page I wish. I could say:

Check out my award-winning music video at ilovevideos.com

The link I made isn’t actually working, but if you looked in your status bar on the bottom of your browser, you saw that it was going to go to an inappropriate Raunchy-Film site. Myspace would not block access to the site if it is a legitimate site that doesn’t have a reputation for spamming. This is a poor plan. Conversely, if they were to block any website with great sensitivity they may end up hindering many important links. Everything is vital in context. Some people may be interested in raunchy videos, but others might be conned into clicking if they think it will lead to a bubbly site about beaver candy.

See what I mean?