Timberlake is bringing Myspace back — but (for now) not to BYU

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“Saturday Night Live’s” Seth Meyers once referred to it as the “abandoned amusement park” of the Internet. Now, the ill-monikered, once-mighty Myspace is hoping a celebrity investor and hail-mary redesign will reverse its decay.

The networking site that rose to popularity in the mid-2000s was jointly purchased last year by Justin Timberlake and brothers Chris and Tim Vanderhook for approximately $35 million. Besides the monetary support, it seems the entertainer’s biggest contribution might simply be his image. Myspace released a video on its new site that features Timberlake and shows the new design.  He shared the video on his Twitter and is working to get other artists to support the site.

The owners of the revamped New.Myspace.com have not set an official release date yet, but they have said the platform will begin as an invite-only site. Tim Vanderhook, part owner of Myspace, said the new site is geared toward musicians.

“In a single sentence, it’s a social network for the creative community to connect to their fans,” Tim Vanderhook said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re going after artists. We want to give them a chance to help build it with us. We’re really far along, but we really want that last 20 percent to really be crafted by more people like Justin (Timberlake) that actually know the tools and things that they need.”

In the aforementioned interview Timberlake said he hopes the new site offers artists a way to comfortably connect with fans and still maintain a level of privacy.

“It’s just bringing the connection that much closer while still making the artist feel comfortable that they can make their art, lock themselves in a room and torture themselves as they do, and still find a way to comfortably connect with their fan base,” he said, adding that his role is “to act as an ambassador to the creative community.”

Without giving away any specifics as to who he’ll contact, Timberlake shared plans to use his connections to recruit other artists to use the new site.

“I know some artists,” he said. “For me, to reach out to the ones that I know, I think for now to be a beta tester, as well,” Timberlake said. “I want them to feel a sense of comfortable anonymity to that.”

The redesigned Myspace is drawing comparisons to Pinterest and Spotify.

Though their registration numbers have declined, many users find that Myspace is the perfect forum for musicians of all kinds. Accounting student Coulsen Phillips has found Myspace to be particularly useful when it comes to finding new music.

“I have been a DJ and most recently used Myspace to discover unique tracks and artists that people would enjoy dancing to,” said Phillips. “I was able to track artists and preview their music, a lot of times it was the most up to date location to hear the newest music.”

Some say that Myspace could be filling a niche for musical networking that has been left void by other sites.

“I think Myspace will make a comeback but in a different role in our Internet experience,” Phillips said. “From what I see, I think they may fill a gap that is missing in the music world. Facebook just hasn’t quite stepped up to the plate for musical artists.”

But for many students, like Warren Lemmon, Myspace is a thing of the past and will remain that way.

“I like Facebook because it is easier to do simple networking, whereas on Myspace there is too much pressure to keep up with everyone else’s pages,” Lemmon, a Tennessee native, said. “For people like me, I have no need to go that direction. Facebook satisfies all of my needs.”

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Emily Cobell, a senior majoring in economics, feels that Myspace has long been irrelevant.

“I don’t use Myspace because I associate it with seventh grade,” Cobell said. “I really like using Facebook and don’t feel the need for any other social networking site.”

Cool redesigns aside, it might all be moot to BYU students — Myspace is blocked on campus. BYU has an extensive filter on its Internet, and Myspace is one of the only major social networking sites that is blocked. Some students will recall that YouTube was blocked on campus until 2009.

Michael Brown, director of Enterprise Account Management and Communications in the Office of Information Technology, said in an email that the university uses a general third party web filtering system. Sites like Myspace, he said, are filtered because they may be “considered offensive or contrary to the mission of the university in either its content or the possible impact on the university network.”

Departments can fill out requests to have a block removed, but every request is evaluated on a case by case basis and depends on what the content is and how it will benefit the university.

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