Of course, until earlier this year when they released their IPO, Facebook was the de facto social media du jour. Twitter was a close second naturally but the truth is that it doesn’t have the user base that Facebook has. Google tried to make an entry as well, but really, who is still using Google Plus consistently?
Still, if there’s one thing that active social media users know is that anything can happen. Look at MySpace and Friendster and how as former kings of social media they have both fallen from grace. I can hear you laughing at the mere mention of those two sites.
But don’t dismiss them so quickly yet – at least not MySpace. It would appear that those behind it, including one very famous Justin Timberlake, isn’t quite so ready to let it go. And earlier this week, the social network site emerged with yet another rebanding exercise. This time, some people are actually getting excited.
There are the usual cynics among the critics, but there are also many people around the world now saying they regret ever deleting their accounts. Personally, I’m not too sure of its future (I still have my account) but I will say it looks pretty slick.
It’s not completely original, however. If you log on to the site, you’ll be welcomed by lots of nice big pictures reminiscent of, you guessed it, Facebook’s cover photo feature, which they introduced not too long ago. It would appear that this is the way to go – at least for now – for most social networks as even Twitter recently launched its new profile page a couple of weeks back which allows you to … yup, post up a huge picture to your page.
If you’re keeping up with your social networks, however, you will also notice that many of these picture-based revamps came by after Pinterest took the Internet by storm. The storm has calmed a little but there is still great interest. I’ve never been one to believe in a dominant social network to rule them all. While I’m on pretty active on Facebook, my preference is Twitter for its speed and simplicity.
And if you take the business elements out of it (Facebook’s stock price has not been doing really well anyway) and just focus on user experience, then I’d say that any social network site that is keeping it fresh and relevant has a fighting chance.
That’s what the new MySpace seems to have going for it with this fourth major revamp. It’s sticking to what it knows best – music, something that grew organically when it first started up. It still has many of its deals with record labels and the truth is they’ve already been pigeonholed as a music network anyway. Having a name like Mr JT doesn’t hurt either (I’m sure you’ve already heard the puns about how he’s made MySpace Sexy/Back).
But looks and sexiness doesn’t make or break a social network, it’s what users can do with it and whether they want to use it that matters. After all, it can be argued that Facebook isn’t the most visually appealing site out there. If anything, its attempt to be everything for everyone gives it an extremely cluttered look. Google Plus has sleekness going for it but it never really kicked off.
All this brings us back to the question – who will be the eventual king of social networking? I don’t think there is an answer to this because as we have seen from past experience, these networks come, reign, get dethroned and re-emerge again.
I’m more excited by the fact that people like those behind the revamp are actually still in it (for the money – eventually). Far from thinking that one or two networks need to reign supreme, I’d rather have these sites co-exist and give each other some competition – friendly or otherwise.
This is because we have come to see how easily it is to get sucked into one ecosystem and never being able to leave. We often complain about Facebook and Twitter’s decisions and changes yet we can’t quit because we don’t quite have many alternatives.
I hope that MySpace and other new attempts like App.net does well because it will keep their competitors and themselves on their feet. Only then will the power really return to the users. After all, the Internet is one of the most democratic tools of this generation and it’s about time we got more control of our (virtual) lives.
Niki has just completed his MA Digital Culture and Society at King’s College London. Connect with him online at www.nikicheong.com and on Twitter via @nikicheong.