It’s easy to dump on MySpace. It was the twenty-first century equivalent of GeoCities, but with an even lower barrier to entry. When MySpace lost the social network race to Facebook very few people were sad to let go of, what Seth Meyers once called, ‘abandoned amusement park of the internet.’
But for a certain group, it’s time to look a little closer MySpace. That group is .Net developers.
For a brief period, MySpace was the most visited site on the internet and .Net technologies were powering it. Virtually no other company, Micrsoft itself excluded, has ever run .Net at the sort of scale that MySpace was innovating at the bleeding-edge of the CLR to keep up. And with little fanfare, they open-sourced a number of their projects. That work is still ahead of it’s time in many ways, and it’s time .Net devs took notice.
MapReduce is the framework that lets Google scale it’s data to massive commodity clusters in a reliable way. This method for distributing computation has been so successful Yahoo!, Facebook, LinkedIn and countless others are now using an open source competitor, Hadoop. By far my favourite project to come out of MySpace was qizmt. qizmt is an open source MapReduce framework for .Net. It allowed you to horizontally scale as your computational load increased. The source is hosted on Google Code at http://qizmt.myspace.com/.
Many web developers will be used to tools like Firebug or the WebKit Inspector, but if you are using Internet Explorer, especially a pre-8 version, you’re mostly out of luck. MySpace built their own browser debugger that they released for free. It brought IE 8 very close to feature parity with the above mentioned tools, but it could also be used with browsers as old as IE 6! The plugin is available from their site with links to the project on Google Code, http://msfast.myspace.com.
My company recently built their own framework to speed up intercommunication between systems. Had we known about Data Relay, we may not have needed to reinvent the wheel. Data Relay is a middle-tier framework to facilitate message passing at scale. This is the sort of heavy weight architectural project that seems to thrive in the non-.Net open source community, but doesn’t get the same focus in Microsoft shops because it’s not provided out of the box. This project isn’t as well documented, but you can find the code on Codeplex http://datarelay.codeplex.com/. There’s also an interesting mention of it by a former MySpace engineer on his blog, http://www.metafilter.com/104479/Im-not-quite-certain-who-this-space-belongs-to-any-more#3752867
It’s easy to look at a loud profile page on MySpace and assume the engineering behind the scenes was equally frightening. But the fact is you don’t rise to the top spot on the Alexa rankings without some pretty serious brainpower on the development team. I think it’s time developers, and the .Net crowd in particular, paid their dues.