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

We were shown bright, friendly icons for potential badges that anyone who has used Foursquare will recognize as familiar, and this particular part of the strategy certainly recalls mechanics like Xbox Live achievements or PS3 trophies as well.

The idea is to add game-like elements that not only are fun but also give recognition back to the user in a playful visual style: "That's what the future of MySpace is going to look like. It's not going to be bland and data-oriented; it's not going to look like chaos like it does today. It's going to be fun and tactile," said Hirschhorn.

Trends

Hand in hand with data visualizations in your Dashboard, another new featured area to look for in the near future is a way to identify trends. Here too we should expect to see bright and visually-engaging ways to find out where the hotbeds of activity are around MySpace, whether it be a hot conversation thread or new movie trailer or new album stream.

Trends will be tracked in real-time and be based on what's being most shared, most talked about, and generating the most activity around MySpace at any given time.

Those trends will also be able to be broken down very atomically by various indices like region and demographics, so you might be able to drill down very specifically into data points like "what is the most popular album among teenagers in New Jersey," for example.

This level of detail is another example of how data-driven some of the new features will be as well as how much of that internal data will be open and transparent to users, but ideally in a way that's more visually attractive and accessible as opposed to your typically dry charts and graphs: "I want something more visual. I want it to be visually cool," said Hirschhorn.

Liking and Interest Maps

In addition to friending (a bi-directional relationship) and following or subscribing, a new "Liking" mechanism will emerge in the future as one part of a system that will start to understand more about you.

This hints at a still nascent element that will likely play a much larger role in MySpace's strategy moving forward, which is about learning specifically what you like and changing your experience over time to be more customized.

Hirschhorn said of the Liking mechanism that it "starts to build preferences that ultimately are going to build up who you are in our database so we can deliver you better experiences. They don't change your user experience overtly in front of you but they're going to behind the scenes. That will be both passive and active. That's a discipline I don't think we've had here, but it breeds engagement and action on the site."

In the long-term, the goal is to build up "interest maps" based on what users have liked and gravitated towards in the past, although the eventual personalization engine will also have to be wide enough to allow for new things and new experiences.

"Discovery has to be wider than what you think you want," and won't be just about matching a stated set of preferences but also about allowing for serendipity and for new types of content to be exposed to you based on elements including what your social network is actively interested in.

More Features, and When Will We See Them?

Other new features we were shown included a big visual and thematic update to the Calendar application, which will gain the ability to sort and filter by type of event like concerts, movies, etc.

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