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This 20-Year-Old Programmer Coded Myspace Back To Life — Take A Look

This 19-Year-Old Programmer Coded Myspace Back To Life — Take A Look

In honor of Codecademy's 11th anniversary, we're looking back at the 2000s websites and software that influenced our founders to build Codecademy — and inspired a generation to learn to code. Explore other fun deep dives into early aughts internet topics here.

In the early aughts, while teenagers were busy copying HTML/CSS snippets for their Myspace layout and deciding which friends earned a place in their “Top 8,” Anton Röhm was just a toddler. Now, the 20-year-old from Germany is the programmer behind the fully functioning Myspace re-creation, called SpaceHey.

Anton built SpaceHey for fun during the pandemic, and the website took off on TikTok and Twitter with people claiming, “Myspace is back!” From the unassuming fonts to the primitive blogging feature, Anton took extra care to capture the essence of the 2000s and make a convincing Myspace dupe.

“I was fascinated by Myspace, and I went down a rabbit hole with Wikipedia and archive.org,” Anton says. “I thought Myspace was pretty exciting, but sadly, I had never tried it.”

SpaceHey’s 500,000-plus community is a mix of former Myspace users soaking up the nostalgia, as well as Gen Zers who are keen to jump on another Y2K trend.

Building SpaceHey has given Anton a crash course in maintaining a website: “Since I launched SpaceHey in 2020, I've been working nonstop on it, like full-time,” Anton says. “The main work right now is keeping the servers up and running, because they're always under a heavy load.”

Here, Anton shares how he coded SpaceHey, the unique ways people are using HTML/CSS on the site, and his theory about why this retro platform is making a comeback.

How’d you learn to code?

“I started when I was around like 13 or so, because I was always fascinated by computers and wanted to have my own website. I started with WordPress and just created WordPress blogs, and tried out different things with thousands of plugins. But at one point, I felt like I hit a wall.

I thought, Okay, I want to do this, but there's no plugin to do it, so I Googled how to create my own plugin. I had to know PHP to create a WordPress plugin, but I didn't know what PHP was, so I looked into it. Then I wanted to output text. How do I do that? I need to know HTML. What’s HTML?

So I never really thought to myself, Now I want to start learning to code. It just happened, and I Googled my way through it.”

How did you code SpaceHey?

“I started with just recreating the Myspace homepage with plain HTML and CSS — it was non-functional, but just the design. When that was done, I used PHP, because that's the first programming language I used, and that's the one I know the best. I wanted to get it started as quickly as possible.

I started to make the homepage functional, with all the links, and the signup form. I made the whole authentication system, built the database, and all that stuff. SpaceHey is written in plain PHP with no frameworks, plain HTML and CSS, and JavaScript. I use a bit of jQuery for the messenger, but that's it.”

What sort of research did you do to accurately recreate Myspace’s design aesthetic and features?

“Mainly looking at screenshots, old YouTube videos, screen recordings, and archive.org, which has some Myspace pages archive. But apart from the homepage, I couldn’t really find screenshots for all of the features Myspace had. So most of the pages I designed myself and thought, Okay, how could it have looked like and felt like back then? I was just trying it out — and I kind of got it right.”

Anton SpaceHey profile
Anton's SpaceHey profile.

Can people make custom layouts with CSS like you could on Myspace?

“That's one of the main aspects! I felt that Twitter and Instagram limited how I express my creativity, because every profile basically looks the same, so I wanted to bring layouts back.

SpaceHey Layouts page
Just like the old MySpace, customizable layouts are a big deal on SpaceHey.

Myspace was famous for the custom layout. In SpaceHey, you’re allowed to insert custom HTML and CSS into your profile, and you can just paste whatever you want — of course, it's filtered to exclude things that could be harmful, like no JavaScript, or no iframes*. You can basically go wild and make your own profile your own space. I also have a layout section right on SpaceHey where people can create layouts and share them with others, so if you don’t know how to code, you can just copy the snippets from there.”

*While these languages aren’t innately dangerous, limiting the site to just HTML/CSS prevents things like cross-site scripting (XSS), which is a vulnerability that occurs when a web application returns unsanitized input to the front end of an application.

In this case, a malicious actor would inject harmful code on their web page to execute when a person goes to their profile, explains Nik Stern, Curriculum Developer at Codecademy. We actually have a course on Defending Node Applications from SQL Injection, XSS, & CSRF Attacks that explains how to protect your sites from cyberattacks.

What are some ways people are customizing their profiles?

“When you give the people the opportunity to code their own layouts and their own profiles, they'll be incredibly creative. They’re creating profiles now that I never thought was possible with just CSS and HTML.

For example, I've found profiles that mimic the aesthetics of Windows XP and Windows operating systems. They have a boot-up screen when you look at a page, without JavaScript — it's just CSS with the startup sound from YouTube embedded. One woman created a layout using just CSS with a ton of Polaroid pictures surrounding the page, a wood background, a notebook in the middle, and a handwriting font — it’s incredible. It's crazy what they can do with just so little code.”

Cristiana SpaceHey layout
A layout that a SpaceHey member created using just CSS.

Besides the nostalgia, why do you think people are still so attached to Myspace?

“It's the complete opposite of modern social media, because there are no algorithms to test content, there's no feed or ‘for you page,’ and it's only web-based, so there are no notifications or news to keep your attention for hours.

I think that's the main reason why people want to feel nostalgic — and that’s working really well. People just go on it, make real connections with people, comment on their pages, create pages with their own code. When they're done, they log out and log back in the next day. It's a much healthier experience, in my opinion.”

Do you want to pursue web development as a career?

Web development is really fascinating to me, but on the other hand, what I've learned with SpaceHey is that it's so much more with server administration and DevOps, which is also really exciting. I'm unsure what path I want to choose, but right now I have to do everything on my own for SpaceHey. It's really fun to learn all the aspects, with clients, the back-end servers, the caching — everything.”

What’s your plan for the future of SpaceHey?

“Currently, most of the SpaceHey costs are coming from my own pocket. The servers are sadly getting more and more expensive as the user base grows. I don't have a huge budget to throw AWS [Amazon Web Services] or something at it.

So what I'm doing right now to support the costs is I have a shop where people can order SpaceHey stickers, and I'll mail them — and they can pay any amount they want, be it 9 or 90 euros, I don't care.

On the other hand, that's not nearly enough to keep it running for the foreseeable future, so I'm looking into sponsorships or putting a small ad on the homepage or something like that. But it's really hard to find companies to do this without wanting to track everything — because I really don't like all the personalized advertisements. I don't want that on SpaceHey.”

Want to relive your Myspace days or just pick up some new coding skills? Learn how to use code to customize a web page (or just make a cool Myspace layout) with our courses Learn HTML and Learn CSS — you might be surprised by how much you remember. If you want to understand what it takes to make a website dynamic and responsive, check out our beginner-friendly Learn JavaScript course. Be sure to check out the rest of our Web Development courses to learn how code powers the most iconic websites and apps on the internet.

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This 20-Year-Old Programmer Coded Myspace Back To Life — Take A Look
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