Justin Timberlakes stream (/Image courtesy of VentureBeat )
A funny thing happened after my drive home from a Los Angeles press junket where MySpace executives Tim Vanderhook, Chris Vanderhook, and Justin Timberlake gave members of the media a detailed tour of the yet-to-be-unveiled site: I changed my mind.
During the drive, I dictated detailed notes into my iPhone. I decided that the second coming of MySpace is like an extremely beautiful woman who also possesses the intelligence of a scholar — too much to absorb.
If you can have too much of a good thing, the reincarnated MySpace is that thing, I reasoned as I drove. Voilà, I found my hook. Now all I needed was a story to match.
But when I sat down to write my article, and actually started exploring MySpace and its 53 million tracks, I got lost in the experience. Suddenly, the words of the executive brothers from earlier in the day came back to me.
“You give users a couple of days and they become hooked,” CEO Tim said. He was responding to my query as to whether MySpace was too convoluted, too complicated.
He’s right. I’ve spent a few hours with the site. I think I’m hooked.
“The Internet just became boring,” COO Chris said to a room of eight reporters (and several handlers), all of whom were hoping to hear more from Mr. Sexy-Back. “There was nothing fun anymore … I want to make it fun to use MySpace.”
It is fun, and so I have to amend my conclusion to this: Wrapped in a pretty package and equipped with brains to match, MySpace feels too good to be true. It’s not. No joke.
Gushing aside, there’s a full review to be had, not all so glowing, so let’s get to it.
Log on to MySpace and you’ll find a design so noticeably different from anything else you’ve encountered that it will be hard to look away.
Designed for artists and their fans, the new MySpace, said every executive and product manager I talked to, is not a redesign. It’s a new product with a new purpose and a design meant to evoke emotion. MySpace wants to draw people into relationships with creatives and the content they produce.
“The standout feature is the design. No doubt,” Chris said. “We really changed the level of expectations of consumers about what design is for a website.”
The site features two separate navigation options. The global navigation bar sits at the bottom of the page, and includes links to your homepage and profile alongside notifications and message hubs. The bottom navigation bar also features a “Discover” button that directs you to a portion of the site for music and media exploration, a search button, and music controls to manage streaming wherever you roam. This bar follows you around the site and is meant to help you dive into (and out of) content.
A separate contextual navigation menu rests on the left-hand side of the page and changes depending on the type of page or content you’re viewing.
On the homepage, you are presented with a stream of content that spans the activity of the people and objects you’ve indicated you care about. You can limit the stream to a specific type of content, say posts or music, or you can view everything. The stream runs on the horizontal, meaning you’ll be scrolling from left to right instead of from top to bottom. Everything in the stream can be interacted with via a two-ring “connection” icon that represents your relationship with that object.
Should a pal listen to a bunch of music, you’ll see the activity in your stream. You can hover over each song to play the track, add it to a music queue, send it in a message, add it to a multimedia collection (called “mixes”), and so forth. Each of these hover cards also highlight similar content, and include percentages that measure the affinity between you and an object.
If you want to share something, you can find the post button on your homepage. The post experience takes over the entire page, and you can share an 150-character update with a photo or track, and your location.
Searching is automatic. Sure, there’s a button included in the global navigation bar, but you never need to use it. All you need to do is start typing. The site will automatically return matching songs, artists, albums, people, mixes, and videos as you type.
Music is enmeshed into the entire experience, so for any track you find on the site, you can either click to listen to it or drag it to a hidden music drawer that opens with your action. If you opt to watch music videos, videos are shown in full-screen. You can watch videos and browse the greater space at the same time; the video will continue to play in the bottom right-hand corner of the site as you explore.
Of course, there are cover photos for profiles. MySpace’s only original twist here is to require high-resolution imagery to maintain quality control (now that’s a twist!).