Bytesize: Can the new Myspace beat Facebook? We try the new musical social network

 

I want to like it… I really do.

Whether out of nostalgia, for the glittery profiles of my teenage years, or anticipation following last September’s teaser video, part of me is hoping for a Myspace comeback.

The site’s new joint owners are Specific Media and Justin Timberlake, who picked up the dying site from News International for just $35m back in June 2011. They insist that Myspace’s fourth incarnation is more than just a redesign, but with its large images and stylish house font, the new magazine-like look alone is rather striking. However, scratch the surface and it looks like a mishmash of other tried and tested social networking concepts.

Navigating the new site for the first time is like one of those bad dreams where you’re behind the wheel of a car you don’t know how to drive: nothing works how you expect it to. The functionality isn’t quite there (horizontal scrolling is jittery when new content loads) and there’s a lot to take in which is initially off-putting, but stick with it and you’ll soon be rewarded.

Using language typical of a dodgy spiritual healer, users are constantly encouraged to ‘connect’ with things: people, songs, videos. Everything. At first this seems totally pointless, but take a closer look at your Library on the home navigation bar and they’re all organised and saved; this is Pinterest for music. And it works.

Although more of an obligatory catch-up than cutting-edge innovation, one definite improvement is the Grooveshark-esque player at the bottom of the page which replaces those hideously annoying pop-out windows. And if it’s originality you’re after, take a look at the clever search function - just start typing to find the content you’re looking for.

But where the new Myspace really shines is the Discover page. Click it and you’re met with articles about the latest music and film, furthering the site’s magazine feel. You can also navigate the site’s content, conveniently sorted by people, music, videos, radio, and mixes (my personal favourite being the rather pleasingly named ‘Hoop Beats - Music for Hoola Hooping’, currently at number 13). All of this makes finding new music and keeping on top of trends straightforward.

Despite the revamp, some features have survived from the glory days when the sound system of choice at house parties was someone’s Myspace account on a chunky PC hooked up to even chunkier speakers. The profile song lives on (which, thankfully, no longer plays automatically) as does the option to list your top 8 friends on your profile, although many will find Facebook’s randomised approach a bit more diplomatic.

Once ‘a place for friends’, its new owners have since said that the new Myspace won’t be directly competing with the big social networks, opting instead to integrate them (for example, by allowing sign ups via Facebook and Twitter). But this raises a fundamental question: what is Myspace actually for? After all, you’ve already got Spotify and Rdio for listening to music, Facebook integration and last.fm to share it, and Twitter for following your favourite artists.

The social element is more or less redundant; the only point in connecting with friends (which is now done unilaterally à la Twitter and Google+) is to share what you’re listening to. Where the new Myspace stands out is as a platform for discovering new music and curating your tastes; if you find a song you like, you shouldn’t have to put it into a playlist in order to save it, and Myspace recognises that.

Of course, there are improvements to be made (offline mode and keyboard controls, please!) but it’s worth remembering that, after all these years, the site that made the Arctic Monkeys is still bigger than both Google+ and Tumblr. There’s no reason why the new Myspace can’t take advantage of this traction and draw in users who want that little bit more from their music discovery experience.

I wanted to like it, and I did. It may never live up to its old hype, and it’ll certainly take a bit of getting used to, but I wouldn’t write this one off in a hurry.

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