Let me be perfectly honest. I'm over Facebook, to the point that I feel annoyed when I check in on my social network and find absolutely nothing of interest to me. With Twitter, I run hot and cold, some days enjoying the spontaneity and other times feeling like I'm not in sync with my network. Google+ is fine in theory, but remains fairly dry in practice. I am ripe for being drawn into a new social network, and surely many others are, too. The time is right for the next big thing. But could the next big thing just happen to be an old one reinvented? Is MySpace back?
The newly redesigned, revamped, retooled, refocused, and finally relaunched MySpace feels young, fluid, and sexy. It's so completely different from the original MySpace that I can't believe it doesn't have a new name, carrying that old brand and tarnished history around with it for no good reason. The interface so deftly integrates an ever-present music player that I wonder if MySpace is competing with the likes of Facebook and Twitter or iTunes and Spotify... or possibly both. Then again, maybe it competes with neither. The new MySpace shakes off all previous conceptions of social networking to truly become its own thing. If you're into exploring new music, it'll be your thing, too.
From New.MySpace.com, you can sign into the network with an existing MySpace username and password, or if (like me) you deleted that account years ago, you can sign up for a brand new one. You can join using credentials from Facebook or Twitter, which I wish I had done. I signed up via email and later realized I had no way of finding actual friends with whom I might want to connect other than individually sending them an invitation by email. I couldn't find an option after-the-fact to connect to another social network or email people en mass through Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or any of the other usual channels.
In signing up, you can opt for a public or restricted profile, something I always like to see. You can change that status at any time in the future in the settings.
For several years, MySpace has retooled its focus to be squarely on "entertainment," and more specifically than that, music. When you sign up, you can select whether you're a musician, photographer, DJ, promoter, or other kind of artist (including "writer/journalist") or just a fan, and there's an option to skip the step entirely if you prefer to not label yourself.
Landing inside the new MySpace jolted me for a few moments while I got my bearings on the outrageously unconventional but hugely intriguing (and ultimately successful) design. Instead of vertical scrolling, everything moves horizontally. Instead of cramming little strips of text into a news feed, oversized text and images fill the screen, loudly and proudly. Even the search box launches into its own screen where massive point sized text in all caps nearly pops off the page.
The crux of MySpace is playing music while exploring the network. A music player remains ever-present at the bottom of the screen. Hover over it, and more controls and visibility into your recent play list appear. Surf around the site, and you can play songs, watch music videos, and even listen to radio stations based on genre. Music videos take over the full screen, with a small palette of controls tucked beneath the right edge of the screen and only visible when you mouse in that direction or scroll while the video plays.
What's Inside the Network?
Sure, you can connect with your friends on MySpace, but I get the sense that's not really the point. The point, if I'm to take the very unsubtle hints from the interface and interactive design, is to explore artists, mostly musicians, and listen to their music while looking for something else that's cool, new, unique, or as-yet undiscovered.
The worst part of the new MySpace experience is finding real people who aren't musicians and figuring out what else there is to do, as exploring music gets old fast if you're not into new music or (truth be told for me) barely into music, period. You can cultivate playlists or "mixes" as they're called here, listen to playlists that other people have created, comment on videos and songs and music celebrities, but even all those activities are still focused on music. I managed to find a few videos that were trailers for movies, but other than that, everything really revolves around music.
As mentioned, I couldn't find any easy methods that would allow me to find friends of mine who are already MySpace members. The search function doesn't have advanced features for finding people who meet multiple criteria, like city of residence of work, as LinkedIn has.
New MySpace for Music Lovers
The new MySpace has so much young, sexy, fresh, and innovative energy that I really do recommend most people who work in technology or the entertainment industry sign up immediately. At the very least, if music isn't really your scene, go to explore the intriguing design choices. It probably won't become "the next big thing" in social networking to rival Facebook, but I don't think it's trying to attract the same broad spectrum of people that Facebook has?grandparents and teenagers and major international companies and brands. MySpace has an edgy coolness factor that would be stripped away quickly if it attracted too many of the wrong people. Maybe that makes it a bit exclusive, but what's cooler than exclusivity?
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