Myspace is back, Back, BACK! Complete with Justin Timberlake as a co-owner, a mammoth collection of streaming music, and the promise that the bad old days of eye-frazzling profiles and needy ska-punk-prog-washboard bands sending blizzards of friend requests.
The site has been redesigned from scratch by its new owners Specific Media, and is currently in closed beta, with invites starting to be sent out for early access.
Rather than trying to out-Facebook Facebook, new Myspace is a mash-up of Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, Pinterest and a bunch of other music discovery sites. Is the comeback on for 2013? Having procured a login, I've been giving it a spin.
Taking the tour
One thing should already be clear from the Myspace teaser video that was published earlier this year: new Myspace is, well, new. A complete break from the old, cluttered, ugly site.
Well, almost complete. You'll be able to log in with your old Myspace ID when signing up (if you can remember the password) if you want to port across your music tastes from those days. However, logging in using Facebook and/or Twitter is probably more useful in reflecting your tastes and friends in 2012.
But yes, the new site is clean, elegant and very slick to use, with a main navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, a smaller sidebar on the left that changes according to which section of the site you're in, and a commenting widget that slides in from the right when needed.
Most sections of the new Myspace scroll horizontally rather than vertically, which can feel strange for a few minutes, but quickly becomes a habit. It feels as much like a tablet app as a standard website, although for now, the site is designed to be used on computers.
On with the tour:
The central point of the new Myspace is your Stream, which like Facebook contains a mixture of status updates and photos that your connections have posted, and information on what they've been doing – listening to songs, creating mixes, connecting to other people etc.
You can browse all your connections from one place, with an emphasis on profile pics – it's possibly a good idea to shoot a new one rather than dust down your 2004 photo. New Myspace uses a Twitter-style asymmetric connections system: you can connect to someone to follow their updates, but they don't have to connect back. As before, the list is a mix of people and musicians/bands.
Here's your profile page. As I said, a complete break from the past design-wise, with crazy flashing GIFs consigned to the dumper. You can choose a cover image like on Facebook, but here it's blown up to full-screen. Scrolling right reveals your own stream of updates, while there's also a profile bio, a Profile Song and your Top 8 friends. YES, that feature has survived the relaunch, which will spark a nostalgic pang for the good old days (and possibly some arguments with friends who don't make the cut).
There's a familiar face! Yes, Tom, everyone's original first friend on old Myspace is on the new version, although he doesn't work for the company nowadays. "Just a user like everyone else…"
Here's how artist pages are looking at the moment on the new Myspace, with their 10 most popular tracks – and the ability to dig down into songs and albums from the left-hand menu – as well as bio text (Florence is R&B?), suggestions of similar artists and artists that inspired them, and a ranking of Top Fans based on who's been playing, commenting and sharing the most.
A big focus of the new Myspace is helping you find new music and artists through its Discover section, which includes separate bits for people, music, mixes, videos and streaming radio stations. The idea is you'll come here to browse what's bubbling up on the site or being recommended by Myspace's editorial team.
Myspace is also hiring journalists to write articles about bands and trends, with big images and in-post videos. For now, that's a mixture of interviews and list-style posts. The site even had a blogger on this week's 777 press-jaunt for Rihanna's new album.
Another key way you'll be discovering and listening to music on new Myspace are Mixes – the equivalent of playlists on Spotify and other streaming services. You and your friends can create and share them, but there'll also be some famous names getting involved: Myspace co-owner Justin Timberlake has been ransacking his hip-hop collection, for example. Mixes are multimedia too: they can include songs, photos and videos.
Music is actually played in the bottom navigation bar, where you can switch between your queue – to which any songs can be added – individual Mixes and the personal radio feature, which creates stations on the fly based on specific bands, songs or genres. The queue pops up when you hover your mouse pointer at the bottom of the screen.
Playing songs and compiling your own Mixes is very nifty: you can drag and drop anything from the main site towards the bottom of the screen, which pops up a menu with various options and mixes. In this case, I'm dragging Ben Howard's EP towards my 2012 Songs mix.
As I said earlier, new Myspace is all about 'connect' – you connect to people to friend them, but also connect to artists, songs, albums and mixes in the way you might Like something on Facebook. Hover over the little Connect icon in the top-right of a profile pic or music thumbnail, and this box pops up telling you more about that person/thing, with an 'Affinity' score to suggest how well-matched you are.
Whenever you connect to an album, song or video, or add a track to a Mix, it also gets added to your Library, which is accessed via the left-hand menu. Your photo uploads are also stored here. It looks, essentially, like iTunes, and functions as your cloud collection of everything you've been listening to or watching on the site.
Finally, a neat touch: if you want to search for someone or something on new Myspace, just start typing on any screen. The screen will clear to reveal your letters big and bold, and Myspace will start suggesting likely songs, artists, albums, people and videos as you type.
The early verdict
The people behind new Myspace are keen to stress that it's still in beta: the site is still being worked on to add new features and squash bugs in advance of its proper launch next year. So it's too early to reach a final verdict on whether it'll soar or flop.
Early indications are that it deserves a chance, though. New Myspace is a very different beast from old Myspace, with impressive design, lots of stuff to listen to, watch and do, and some inventive features that go beyond what, say, Facebook has to offer.
That said, this isn't trying to be Facebook. If anything, it's aiming to be a supercharged Spotify or Deezer with deeper social features. The site already claims to have more than 42m tracks available to play, with a big proportion of them coming from unsigned artists.
Yes, it's true that a lot of those are RUBBISH unsigned artists from 2005, but the hope must be that great new bands in 2012 will adopt the site and bubble up just like Arctic Monkeys / Lily Allen / etc did all those years ago.
This is why it's hard to reach a firm judgement now on whether new Myspace will succeed. Much will depend on whether lots of artists get involved whole-heartedly, and also on whether lots of your friends do.
One challenge may be the fact that since it complements Facebook and Twitter rather than replaces them, people may wonder if they have enough hours in the day to spend time in an extra social media site.
However, judging by its current state, new Myspace at least deserves a chance: if you get an invite – early adopters are getting new batches every so often, or you can sign up at new.myspace.com – it's worth having a poke around.
Given the last Myspace's fall from grace, that's some achievement.