Saving MySpace: Inside the Company's Plan for the Future

Users will still have control over customizing the look and feel of their profile ("They'll actually have better tools," says Jones), but there will be more unification to the underlying structure and framework behind profile organization in order to make a better, more cohesive experience for users in terms of site navigation.

Hirschhorn says that customization is obviously valuable but "has to work within a usable framework. And that is going to be a religion for us. It can't be homogenized, it still has to be 'let your flag fly,' but there has to be a certain kind of structure to it. And that's a very, very important point for us going forward."

He acknowledges the dual blessing and curse of the original wide open profile customization: "Giving them that control had a real impact on the usability of MySpace. So the real mission we laid out to the staff was how do we give them the visual control but still maintain a certain kind of architecture in how you browse through the site."

The new profiles will bring a unity to the overall experience while still allowing the "crazy and fun" level of self-expression users came to know and enjoy about the site.

Publishing and The Stream

In the past, you couldn't do things like publish videos or other types of content directly into the Stream, but the vision is to allow all types of content. Moreover, you'll be able to filter the contents of your stream by type, so you can view only videos or see just the links, for example.

The MySpace Share mechanism will handle incorporating content from all over the web directly into the Stream, both via buttons webmasters can incorporate within their sites and as a browser bookmarklet that allows sharing content just as easily even if the buttons aren't specifically included.

Currently in testing now is a change to the former status update tool into an explicit publishing tool, allowing users to simply add videos, photos, links, and other types of content. Within the next month we should expect to see a new feature that allows cross-posting to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Digg via a simple dropdown.

"Why not? Publish once, go everywhere. If you increase publishing, you increase engagement," said Hirschhorn of the upcoming feature.

Dashboard and Reputation

Back in October, MySpace launched an Artist Dashboard tool as part of the MySpace Music hub for musicians and bands. We'll be seeing that tool become available for users as well, with the goal of providing a visually-rich view into the "ripple effect" of a user's activity on MySpace.

Imagine being able to get statistics back on what your most popular shares are, who is reacting to what you're publishing and where they are, and all manner of metadata about what kind of user you are on the site and the effects of your activities there.

Closely related to that will be a system of achievements and badges that users can display on their profile to show off what type of users they are, whether it be someone with the most shared playlists or someone who spots trends early on and more.

This creates a cycle of feedback and recognition to the user, as well as providing an additional layer of self-expression and identity driven by the data surrounding how that user is actually interacting with MySpace.

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