Ah MySpace, it’s been a while. What’s the new thing you’ve got coming our way? Sean Parker? Oh wait, is that a cleverly disguised Justin Timberlake I see there?
Yes ladies and gentlemen, Justin Timberlake paid part of 35 million to revamp MySpace. He did. Yes, MySpace. The thing that died when Facebook soared? The thing that nobody uses anymore? Those to previous statements will put you in either of two categories: you’re snickering about how outdated MySpace is OR you’re offended by all the snarky drivel I’ve written so far.
Believe it or not, there are still people on MySpace. And believe it or not, but MySpace already tried to reinvent itself before ol’ Timby climbed on board. Yes, I’m talking about this atrocity (Yes, the picture had to be this big):
But enough about the debacle that happened after News Corp bought MySpace and the media was all like “ERMAHGERD PERDERPHERLERS!” (translation + actual article). Something that Boyd and Ellison briefly mentioned before clarifying the fact the “concerns were exagerated” (217).
Let’s forget about all that and take a look at the new MySpace:
Surprisingly, it looks… good? Open your Gmail inbox and tell me it doesn’t look a tad like it, just with the borderlessness. After seeing the trailer myself then looking at my Facebook, I thought “damn, Facebook’s layout is starting to show age”. MySpace seems to be done with hilariously horrible profiles and going with some sort of hybrid of Google+ (with people on it) and Pinterest (with a horizontal scroll *gasp*). The whole feel of it is cleaner, more professional, more polished– just better. But I can’t shake one thing off… it’s still MySpace! When a friend brings up the fact that she’s on MySpace my brain fizzles out and I just give her a covertly disingenuous smile (if you’re reading this, know that I love you first, then feel weird about MySpace second). At this point in time MySpace is a Chimera: optimists and active users will see the lion, the media could seek out the snake, while skeptics and pessimists alike will hear the goat: “Meh”.
Danah Boyd wrote a paper in the December of ’06 titled “Friends, Friendsters, and MySpace Top 8:Writing Community Into Being on Social Network Sites” which was basically about the way that people build their personas through their online profiles. At one point Boyd explains the inception of the MySpace migration because,
Over time, movie stars, politicians, porn divas, comedians, and other celebrities joined the fray.
Boyd explained that part of the reason why MySpace became immensely popular was because of Friendster shutting down pages for brands, concepts, and porn divas. Friendster’s users had a good concept in mind –> MySpace capitalized on Friendster’s bad move –> MySpace became a place where fans met celebrities, where, as a girl explained,
she linked to a band because “I wanted to stare at [the lead singer’s] face.”
Although that might not seem like the most logical statement ever conjured by mankind, the point is it worked. And it worked damn well, so well that News Corp bought MySpace for $ 580 million. However it was one of the reasons as to why MySpace failed, but it is not the only one. In “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship” Boyd and Ellieson discussed the practice of personalizing one’s own profile with anything. Ranging from all manner of random fandom or flashy neon lights all over the place, the visually striking (more like “bludgeoning”) pages did not fit with the aesthetics of the many banner ads that also populated the profile pages. More importantly all the visual clutter translated into data clutter which basically equates to staring at a clogged drain from the most unflattering angle.
Fast forward to 2012. MySpace is dead in the eyes of many, comically so sometimes. Facebook is crowned king of social networks and Google + honestly feels like an empty and grey room. Twitter is thriving in somewhat a different market but not totally. MySpace has been relegated to that site your friend smiles disingenuously at you when you say you’re on it. Those who have heard the goat still think of a MySpace page as having a pink and black zebra background with a self-pic-shot-in-a-dingy-public-bathroom-stall profile picture. While the snake is pretty much buried by now, those who see the lion see at this:
You can click the picture and it’ll take you down the strange new thing that MySpace has become. LOOK! There’s even a sign in with Facebook option! But I digress. MySpace has fallen back to its origins, a platform for consumers to connect with artists (and Ke$ha). Boyd’s take on the social network as it was before, a place to build one’s persona through connections is outdated. It’s a point I have been driving at all along this post but one that needed the exposition. In Boyd’s defense her paper was released in 2006, around the time Facebook opened its servers to the general population, moments before it swept the world away from MySpace and the others. The way MySpace works now is not the way it worked then, the focus is now clearly on music (and Ke$ha) and entertainment. MySpace is no more a place where politicizing about your top 8 is a — wait!
The Top 8 is still there! Oh and the customization is still there… I wonder what I can–
I feel soiled….
At any rate, what we can see is that MySpace did change, just not enough for the taste of some (I, for one, would run like hell from a profile like that– or a profile that can be built from scratch, the option is still there). MySpace automatically generated my ‘friends’ list from my musical ‘likes’ on my Facebook profile and when the notifications popped up in a split second saying that Jack John and I were ‘Friends’, it really just felt fake. MySpace, as of the time of writing, still needs a major revamp. And this is where Justin Timberlake’s approach comes in. The new MySpace’s approach to design is a true reboot: with an extremely rich ‘borderless’ feel to its interface and what feels like streamlined customization (that’s “no more twilight backgrounds” in fancy terms) the new MySpace might actually work. Or is that the new new new MySpace? One thing that still bothers me is the name: it still reminds me of “tacky add-ons and eyesore profiles“. MySpace’s re-branding will be tough.
The skeptics of the internet (if that’s not redundant) are still in line with the version of MySpace that Boyd discussed, a website that provided gateways, not only to tens of thousands of strangers to friend for the f#$ of it, but to users who could not (and should not be asked to) keep the website’s aesthetics (since they have the tools at their disposal). The ‘Top Friends” module is absent from Facebook, however the fact that you can have 50 brothers, 12 mothers, and 423 cousins (each with different family names) has become Facebook’s version of “Top Friends”. It would be fascinating to know what Boyd thinks of that new phenomenon: limitless and somehow bastardizing the concept of ‘family’.
As for MySpace? I mean, Justin Timberlake did bring Sexy back.