Like Lazarus, MySpace has returned. However, is this return going to force you to sign up?
Succeeding the prepubescent, after-school, six hour marathons of MSN, MySpace beguiled us with so many options to be cool you didn't know where to start. From showing all your friends-you've-not-actually-met the latest undiscovered track from that band no one knew, to customising your profile with HTML (yes, code...on a social networking site) to ensure individuality. This is where the seeds of Hoxton's hipsters of today were sewn. For the designers amongst us, it can only make your skin crawl with all sorts of usability faux pas.
Enter MySpace 2.0 - Or, in their own words, New MySpace. Good job whoever came up with that, how are those dark rum cocktails tasting over in the Caribbean?
The promo video sets you up for quite literally the best online social experience your social-network native mind can ever imagine. Consider it: friends; music; articles; photos, seriously what else do you want?
Design-wise, we seem to be caught up in the 2012 penchant for an off-white, textured, palate, which is then thrown back to the late 60s/early 70s with an overload of a Helvetica style ultra-light Lucida Sans alternative (incidentally, if you haven't seen the Helvetica film, watch it). Someone must've taken a 3 second look at what every other website is doing now and decided on a very Facebook (albeit a modified version of) Lucida Sans.
After using the site for a few hours, some fundamental flaws becomes apparent. Firstly, it seems as if they either had no idea how a person uses a website on a desktop, or decided to break this convention altogether. Moreover, they endeavoured to try and kill two dinosaur-sized birds with a singular pea-sized stone. The dinosaur-sized birds (see: pterodactyls) being the reinvention of website scrolling in addition to how users socialise with New MySpace's USP, music.
What do we actually get?
New MySpace and Windows 8 were released in quite close proximity to one another, and they actually act in a very similar manner. For one, they both use this hyper-light, oversized typeface to let you know where you're currently standing and secondly, they've both employed this new 'horizontal scrolling' effect. This translates to a horizontal version of the Facebook timeline for when you have a full 'feed' of incoming posts, photos, and general social burps that you're invariably indifferent towards, like the ready salted packet in a Walkers crisps multipack. Windows 8, yes they have (accumulatively across desktop OS systems) a 90% market share, so can pretty much do what they want and still force feed the third world their machines for another decade or two without it taking effect. New MySpace, however, isn't in such a luxurious position. The past 5 years or so has seen MySpace slowly but surely de-rung on the social ladder. Even LinkedIn was able to thrive in this nascent social circle.
The main music player reeks of Grooveshark. Perhaps this 'sticky' bottom music player is just convention. Yet in order to reinvent social music, you've got to show us something different, haven't you? Searching for artists is actually enjoyable, and pretty clever too, all you have to do is start typing (think Google instant).
Finding New Music
Despite my hipster-based rant, finding new music on the old MySpace was very useful. We all remember being the first person to feature the newest Kings of Leon track on our profiles. This was before they became the guitar-throwing rock pop act that we know them to be today. Here, though, 'discovering' simply feeds you with artists you could've just switched Radio 1 on to hear. Perhaps using your already encyclopaedic knowledge of unsigned artists might help you here. Last.fm users will recognise the 'Radio' section of New MySpace, a useful tool to listen to New MySpace recommendations of an artist you select.
Who is this for?
It does hold strong potential, but in my opinion is going to need to pummel us with advertising until we realise we couldn't live without it. Who remembers when Google+ beta launched, was picked up by every person involved in the web industry, and given a swirly on the first day of school? Well, New MySpace will only head in this direction if we're not made aware of the benefits. I really enjoyed playing around with the Grooveshark and Last.fm style music searches. Nevertheless, when a website has a 'tour' button, it will turn the layman off before they've even had a chance to search for their sweetheart from the summer of '06. If you want to stop relying on several music websites to listen, try New MySpace out and you might be pleasantly surprised; just don't expect to see anyone you know on there. I tell a lie, Tom from the original MySpace is there, with the same 'look how much money I'm making' profile picture he had 10 years ago. Thankfully, PC4PC doesn't seem to feature on New MySpace.
New MySpace shows us that pumping money into technology can essentially bundle several other apps, whilst forgetting that without people, social just doesn't work. It's another social website where you have to ask your friends to join, and with most people thinking MySpace died five years ago, good luck.