Can Myspace really come back from the dead?

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New Myspace

Could Myspace’s new re-brand finally give it the competitive edge needed to really challenge the dominance of Facebook?

If the new design, launched by new owners Joseph Mark (and backed by Justin Timberlake) is anything to go by, it seems a likely assumption. By giving users a unique opportunity to enter a social network that caters to a specific niche demographic — musicians, filmmakers, photographers, and their fans — it deviates from the clutter that litters Facebook, and the abundance of lolcats and wedding dresses on Pinterest. More importantly, it bears no resemblance to Facebook’s Timeline (a tool which I still believe has damaged Facebook’s credibility) with Bloomberg Businessweek tech columnist, Ben Kunz, tweeting that the new Myspace design makes Facebook look like MS-DOS.

Imitation or innovation?

But before I’m accused of being too one-sided and spouting a fairy-tale ending for the flailing network, let me make it clear: its design may be cool, but it’s far from perfect. For one thing, while it discourages lolcats, the layout is suspiciously similar to Pinterest, and once again one has to wonder, in light of the Samsung/Apple debacle, when does imitation move beyond flattery, and just enter the realm of lazy design and patent infringement? Barring this, and looking past the familiar design, the site does have a unique way to categorise and sort your photos, news, events and music.

Unlike many other social networks, the new Myspace provides the user an experience that not only documents your day-to-day activities with now standard photo albums, descriptions, friend tagging and statuses, but more importantly, it allows the user to attach a personal playlist to each activity; effectively adding a soundtrack to each aspect of your virtual life.

Added to this, you can peruse the site and stalk follow your favourite celebrities, with a function that allows you to not only to view their profile (unsurprisingly, the promotional launch video was a nauseating homage to Justin Timberlake), but it also links one to tour details, artist specific merchandising and music. And as for aspiring artists, the site also tracks your user hits and statistics, giving you insight into your fan base, ranging from age groups, gender, and geographic location. However, as useful as all of this is for an aspiring musician, there are still a number of drawbacks that makes one question how successful the new site is actually going to be.

It looks cool, but is it what the users want?

Firstly, we live in a society that has an increasingly short attention span, and multi-tasking has become an expected necessity, rather than a skilful talent; we’re expected to watch television while Facebooking, BBMing, and feeding the dog. Such a reality makes the new Myspace site a little cumbersome because you are constantly enticed to explore other pages, and re-direct your attention to other artists, events and playlists. In theory, it’s a good idea because it makes it easier to discover new and unknown artists and pages, but in reality, users are more likely to ignore up-and-coming artists and re-direct their attention to more established musicians.

Added to this, the navigation is tedious, and entirely unintuitive, to say the least. To find your way around your own profile is easy enough, but to utilise the site’s abundant capabilities requires immense time, and patience; even watching the new promotional video was difficult to follow. To put it simply, if you can’t read the mind of the designers and what they want, you’re going to lose out on what most of the site offers.

So, does Myspace have the ability to resurrect itself? I’d love to say yes, but realistically, it doesn’t matter how much life you breathe into a zombie, it’s still dead. And, it’s unlikely that it can compete with the numbers of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google+, even if it is marketing itself as a niche-network. Added to this, if you want to create a niche-market, it seems odd to clump all types of artists together, and then expect them to compete with already established personalities like Justin Timberlake and Kanye West; especially, when there are already more than enough impressive, and successful, niche-sites for up-and-coming artists: deviantArt already has 22-million users, Vimeo has eight-million, while SoundCloud is up to 10-million.

Some could argue that Apple had the ability to re-invent itself, so why not Myspace? Because Apple had two very unique and important factors. First, it had Steve Jobs, who was determined and committed to Apple and Apple alone, whereas the investors in Myspace have capital spread in a number of enterprises. And secondly, its re-invention wasn’t just a re-brand; it was a whole new product that revolutionised the music industry. Myspace hasn’t really done anything new, except bought themselves a new design, and a little more time with its existing users. The reality is that this would have been cutting edge and original three years ago, but now, I’m afraid, it’s doubtful it’ll get back to being one of the dominant social media players, even if it does look really cool.

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