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Myspace, Act II: A Whole New Tune

Myspace, Act II: A Whole New Tune

Photo illustration by 731

The moment you likely haven’t been waiting for has finally arrived: The new Myspace is here. But surprise! It looks pretty good. The troubled social networking site is hoping to relive some of those early-millennium good times with a tight focus on music discovery, a brand-new look (goodbye eye-searing profiles), tablet- and mobile-friendly navigation, and a complete reboot of its membership. The old and new sites are walled off from one another, and legacy “Myspace classic” users can take only their usernames to this brave new world.

The invitation-only beta ended Tuesday and new users now are able to sign up. But it will be a rocky return to relevance. After News Corp. (NWS) took a half-billion-dollar bath on a sale to Specific Media and Justin Timberlake, the new owners decided to reorient the site toward its core membership: musicians and their fans. In its heyday, Myspace was pretty much the only place to showcase your band and collect an online following. Fans deserted the site as clean, intuitive Facebook (FB) started to gain momentum, leaving musicians in the lurch.

The new Myspace is full-bore on the music, keeping a playlist editor glued to the footer and making the user practically trip over new songs and updates from artists already inhabiting the site. When you “connect” with someone, you get a look at his or her music and playlists. The developers thankfully banished the clutter that plagued the old Myspace, making navigation less of a chore. How’s this blank slate look? The screen shots below highlight two big differences.
Photo illustration by 731
Compare these profile photo pages from the old (above) and new (below) Myspace. White space takes the day in the redesign, but what jumps out is the complete absence of advertising. And it’s a consistent evaporation: I couldn’t find a single banner ad, text ad, or pop-up on any one of the pages. With all of Myspace’s peers monetizing through sidebar and inline advertising, I concluded that either a) Specific Media knows something Facebook doesn’t, or b) Myspace’s actual “profit” mechanism is a distant concern. The latter seems more likely.
Photo illustration by 731
Overall, the new Myspace is a lovely but not always intuitive package. The site scrolls horizontally, which feels natural on a phone or tablet but somewhat punishes the spacebar-scrolling desktop user. The interface for collecting content is novel, but not a perfect fit: Users “connect” to an artist, song, playlist, or video (pretty much any discrete piece of media on the site) in order to add it to their Pinterest-like stream. This is a jarring transition for users accustomed to the language of “friends” and “likes,” and a Venn-diagram cue that informs users how likely they are to enjoy their new connection needs some tweaking. I have “0% compatibility” with Beyoncé? Rude.

Day zero is a bad time to prognosticate, so who knows if the revamped Myspace will go right back to the social network graveyard or take off into the wild blue IPO. The aesthetics, the capital, and the Justin Timberlake are in place. Now the reborn, a-little-bit-Pinterest/ Myspace needs to harvest that most elusive of Internet resources: bodies.

Applegate is a contributing graphics editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow him on Twitter @evanapplegate.

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