MySpace, msplinks, and you

MySpace, in all their idiotic Foxy glory, has decided to run every outgoing link through msplinks.com, a redirecting agency that they own.

Now, the logic of their decision, is that they’re trying to cut down on comment spam…although these redirects also apply to any urls you may have in your profile. So, for example, instead of having http:/www.soapyhollow.com, it would have an msplinks.com/RandomNumbers address.

The problems with this idea are multifold. First, it completely screws up search engine refers. When search engines index myspace pages, they’ll now be storing the msplinks address instead of the *actual* url. And msplinks redirects don’t work from search engines, they only work if you’re logged into myspace. This is damn near the equivalent of releasing grey goo into the tubes. Not only is it a decision that’s likely to bork up the info architecture of every search engine, every link redirects to the myspace home page if you’re not logged in. So, it’s just sort of an unethical method to drive ad views.

Of course, News Corp and unethical almost goes without saying, doesn’t it?

Second, it opens up myspace viewers and users to all kinds of scammers, phishers, pornpushers and whatnot. Because now you can’t see where a link goes without clicking on it. All links look like they go to msplinks.com. Now, the admins at myspace would have you believe that they’re so super vigilant that they’re checking every single one of millions of daily links to make sure that none of them are going to the “dark side”….but yeah, right.

They don’t have the computing power. They just don’t. They don’t have the algorithms….because if they did, they wouldn’t have implemented this ham-fisted, ill considered nonsense onto the intarwebs.

Besides, would you trust the programmers that designed the look and feel of freakin’ *myspace*? The ugliest, buggiest, creakiest ad-driven social network evah? I mean, really…you think those guys have the braintrust to develop an algorithm that could stop every spammer, porn site, phisher and scammer in the world? Really?

There is a solution, however. (Thanks Pigeon!) Here’s Pigeon’s fix:

The obfuscated part of an msplinks URL is simply the original URL preceded by two digits and encoded using base64. Thank the Lord that it’s not actually encrypted. This makes it simple to recover the original URL:

$ MSPURL="http://www.msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vcGlnZW9uc25lc3QuY28udWsvaW5kZXguaHRtbA=="
$ echo "$MSPURL" | sed -e 's/^.*\.com\///' | mimencode -u | sed -e 's/^[^h]*//' -e 's/$/\n/'

http://pigeonsnest.co.uk/index.html
$

(In Debian, mimencode is part of the metamail package.)

I have created a javascript bookmarklet that goes through myspace pages and converts all the fucking stupid msplinks redirects back into the original links, so you can see what they really are. It works on textareas too so you can see what you’re doing when you’re editing your profile. What you do is bookmark this button:

Deobfuscate msplinks redirects

then when you want to deobfuscate the links on a myspace page, you just go to that bookmark, and instead of reloading a different page like a normal bookmark does, it changes all the msplinks on the existing page back into their original, readable form. (You need javascript turned on for it to work.)

I’ve tested it in firefox and opera. When used, the page refreshes instantly, and suddenly you can see what all the links really are under all that msplinks junk.

Honestly, under what hothouse conditions do your coders have to live before implementing *THIS* seemed like a good idea. No competent information architect would have ever signed off on something this stupid. I mean, I know how the business guys got there, that’s a no brainer…but if you ever needed proof that the moneylenders have taken the temple and the geeks have lost the war to the profiteers, this decision is it.

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