For those who might be growing bored with Facebook, there's a new alternative in the works. Well, sort of. It's a social networking site that lists among its investors none other than Justin Timberlake.
It's called Myspace.
That's right: J.T. is trying to bring "SexyBack" at Myspace. The website has been under new management for a little over a year, and now the owners are previewing a planned facelift that many commentators and bloggers are praising as a big improvement. What they don't seem to be able to agree upon, though, is whether the site can really hope to recapture any of its former glory as the Internet's once-most-popular social network.
The history of the Internet hasn't been kind to websites trying to make a comeback. Remember Napster, for example? Best Buy tried turning the maverick file-sharing site into a streaming music service -- but gave up after disappointing results.
"Lots and lots of companies have bought these brands and tried to leverage them and bring them back," says Greg Sandoval, who follows digital media for CNET. He adds, "I haven't seen one come back."
Myspace is aiming to refashion itself as a slick destination for emerging musicians to get exposure and stay in touch with their fans. Sandoval doesn't rule out a slim chance the strategy could work, mostly thanks to Justin Timberlake's contribution as an "entertainment phenomenon." As a musician, actor and TV comedy star, Timberlake could reach multiple audiences and bring the site a lot of attention, says Sandoval. "You never know what somebody like him can do."
At the research firm GigaOM, tech analyst Michael Wolf says Myspace faces an uphill battle against Facebook. He also points out that Facebook's popularity means it can't make changes as dramatically as Myspace, which has only a tiny fraction of Facebook's global audience.
"You don't want to alienate that large installed user base," Wolf says of Facebook. "That's one of the things that Myspace has in its advantages. They can take swings for the fences."
In the end, that may be all the planned redesign turns out to be -- another swing at saving Myspace. This is the site's fourth major overhaul, and CNET's Sandoval says if it weren't for the star power of one of its backers, most people would just write Myspace off -- as many already have.