The new MySpace: What a mess

January 16, 2013: 9:05 AM ET

MySpace users—the few who remain—will find a radically different and confusing new site.

130103104321-gallery-justin-timberlake-myspace-gallery-horizontalFORTUNE -- The new MySpace seems to be two things: a confusing mess for existing users (and maybe everybody else), and basically a promotional vehicle for the music star Justin Timberlake, one of the main investors in the site.

The splash screen presents a giant picture of Timberlake and an opportunity to log in, or to sign up. Existing users can (ostensibly -- see below) log in with existing usernames and passwords, and new users can either create a new account or log in using another social-media network such as Facebook (FB) or Twitter. In all cases, after the opening screen with the giant picture of Timberlake, users are taken to a page with a slightly smaller picture of Timberlake. Both pages mention his new single, "Suit & Tie."

Users might be confused if they try to find other users on what is still supposed to be a social network, albeit one more directly aimed at "music discovery"—which was MySpace's original mission way back when it first started a decade ago. Searches on people known to have active user accounts yield no hits, though some searches will offer "hits" on music artists that are featured on the site, but there's no clue as to why those results appear.

MORE: 1 in 2 shoppers still want an iPhone

There is nothing on the opening pages about other users—only about artists. User profiles, though, still seem to be there if you go to them directly.

After I logged in with a new account attached to my Facebook profile, I called up a MySpace profile page from my Web history. Somehow, I was then apparently logged in to both accounts at the same time. When I logged out from my old account, I tried to log in again using my existing username and password. It didn't work. I tried to play some tracks—including on Timberlake's page. It didn't work. The music didn't play. The navigation seems bewildering, though it might simply take some getting used to. At the very least, it's less than intuitive. In fact, it's hard to know how to find anything.

All this might be ironed out in time, but no matter what, current users of the site will find that it's a radically different experience from what they were used to. Of course, there are far fewer of those users than there were during the site's pre-Facebook heyday.

The new site offers music streaming and the ability to create playlists and radio stations. The design is minimalist, with a sideways-scroll mode of navigation. The company has said that it no longer is trying to compete with social networks like Facebook, but rather with music services like Pandora (P) and Spotify.

MORE: Facebook vs. Google: It's on in search

News Corp. (NWSA) purchased the site from its original owners for $580 million  in 2005 and promptly began to flub what could have been a major opportunity. The design remained horrible; unbidden music would come blaring out of computer speakers as soon as a user clicked on a profile; and there were major privacy concerns. It also -- unfairly or not -- took lots of heat for the bullying that often occurred among the site's young user base. As Facebook ascended, MySpace basically remained the same until last year when News Corp. sold it for a paltry $35 million to an investor group including Timberlake.

Not all that long ago, MySpace was considered a site mostly for kids and young adults, but there are now many teenagers who have never heard of it. It was the most talked-about site on the Internet for a couple of years. If its first attempt at rebirth is any indication, it seems unlikely that it will attain anything like that again.

Join the Conversation
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.