I know that the big thing in social networking today is Facebook’s Graph Search, a fancy-pants tool that will let me search for the restaurants my friends check into, if anyone used Facebook Places or if I had friends. (I hear it does other things too.) But there’s another, smaller bit of news today: The new, new Myspaceis now open to the public.
Today’s launch was fairly low-key, so far as launches go. Hell, we aren’t even sure how long Myspace whatever-point-oh has been open to the public. The social network did one thing right, though, and that’s choosing to launch witha new single from Justin Timberlake. Myspace is all about the tunes, and there isn’t a better way to show that than to debut a song from a celebrity who hasn’t released any music in years.
Is it gimmicky? Sure. Was the song worth it? Not really. But it did remind everyone that Myspace is a thing and that Justin Timberlake was a singer before he decided to do a few movies, including PandoDaily favorite “The Social Network.” Yeah, I’ll admit it: I signed up for Myspace just to hear the song, despite the fact that I’ve had an early invite sitting in my inbox for weeks. No, I’m not proud of it. Judging from a Twitter search, I’m not the only one who signed on for the song, though, so it may have been a net “win” for Myspace.
Until you remember that Timberlake has a vested interest in Myspace making a comeback, as my colleague Richard Nieva pointed out in November. Nieva argued that Myspace’s traffic is based off of habit, not joy, and that not every floundering social network is meant to make a comeback. That’s too bad, because the new Myspace is actually enjoyable.
How many of us even remember the old Myspace? The one that automatically added Tom as a friend and combined the immaturity of its users with a too-powerful-but-still-not-good profile editor that led to more than one case of eyeball-bleeding? It was horrible, and the only reason we used it was so we could talk to our friends and — wait for it — listen to new music.
The new Myspace doesn’t have the first part of that equation, and companies like Spotify, Rdio, MOG, Pandora, Last.fm, and others are all vying for the second. Yet Myspace manages to feel fresh, opting for a clean, modern experience instead of the glittery pages and horrible decisions associated with the old version. Based on my limited time with the service I’d say that it’s actually nicer to use than many of the products I just listed, combining the ubiquitous music of those services with a Pinterest-like focus on imagery and a Squarespace-esque take on interaction and color schemes.
If social networks were popular based solely on their merit, however, we’d have switched to Google+ a long time ago. (Yep, let’s cue the hate from the people who like Facebook’s design and the people who use Google+ and are sick of everyone saying that the service is a ghost town.) Friends matter — that’s why Facebook’s Graph Search might be a big deal for people whose friends use everything the service offers and to marketers who want a better targeting tool based on the same data.
Even the method for showing that people were logging into the new service belies its weakness. I didn’t log into Myspace and get inundated with status updates (or whatever Myspace is calling them) from friends and acquaintances. I searched Twitter. Myspace couldn’t build something like Graph Search even if it tried, and without music, the service seems like a ghost town.
One shouldn’t extrapolate based off of one example, but based on this sentence’s structure, you already knew that’s what I’m going to do anyway. Myspace offers users an elegant, well-considered way to share data, emphasizing user experience to keep what users it has happy. Facebook offers users one box, some less-than-stellar mobile apps (and a worse mobile strategy), but it has a billion users and all kinds of data. Data doesn’t have to be pretty in order to offer insight, and Facebook’s Graph Search is proof positive of that.
Choosing to launch with a new single from “The Artist Formerly with *NSYNC,” which totally isn’t how Justin Timberlake refers to himself but probably should be, got Myspace in front of some new or new-again users. It allowed anyone who bothered to pay attention to the sign up and login processes to see that this isn’t your middle school -self’s Myspace. A good product marred by a rocky past, Facebook’s grasp on its users, and poor timing.
Nieva is right. Timberlake may have brought sexy back (ugh) but he likely won’t bring Myspace back. Which, again, is a shame — based on the merit of its product, I’d say that the network deserves another chance. It’s too bad it probably won’t get one.