MySpace aesthetics revisited: “The vintage Internet”

Just this weekend I was thinking about an old series of posts here, from 2007, in which I mused about the aesthetics of MySpace. At the time I was trying to figure out why something so “ugly” was also so popular, in an era of supposed mass-good-taste in design/aesthetics. Since then of course MySpace has become much less popular. Are aesthetics part of the reason?

Well before I could hash out an answer, I saw this Observer story with a totally different take. MySpace aesthetics connote the “vintage Internet.” Now that’s a great concept, the vintage Internet. Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

“It’s kind of like how you have those bands where they’re like, ‘Yeah we’re putting our record out on cassette,’” said Matthew Perpetua, the founder of the music site Fluxblog and a contributor to Pitchfork and Rolling Stone. “It’s that kind of contrarian impulse.”

At the Williamsburg party, where one of the opening bands had released an album on cassette, a bald design student named Kyle was standing near the merch table and praising a MySpace competitor, the San Francisco-based Bandcamp.

“I go there now. But I don’t want to go there,” he said of MySpace. “I want it all to be on Bandcamp.”

“O.K., I’ve never heard of Bandcamp,” said his compatriot, a diminutive green-eyed artist named Meghan. She blew cigarette smoke back and forth. “So I’m still going to MySpace.”

“No, no, and that’s totally O.K., too,” Kyle said quickly.

Much of the MySpace nostalgia is a response to Bandcamp, the glitz to MySpace’s gutter and a necessary part of the equation, just as cassettes and vinyl would have no cachet without the dominance of MP3s.