Facing pressure from Facebook, MySpace regroups

As competition heats up with Facebook, social network MySpace is set to launch a major redesign of its Web site next week.

While MySpace won't say so directly, it appears its new site design may be the beginning of an effort to slow its competitor's advances. Launching Monday, but not appearing across its pages until Wednesday, the redesign will change many of the most popular features of the site.

Initially, the changes are slated to appear on the home page and search functions, as well as the navigation, profile editing, and MySpace TV. However, officials said additional changes are on tap throughout the summer.

Changes are aimed at keeping users on the site longer. While it will still keep true to its roots as a social networking site, additional functionality will be added so that the site resembles more of an online portal.

MySpace co-founder and president Tom Anderson is making it no secret who he plans to compete with in the future -- specifically mentioning Yahoo and Google to the press as the site's newest rivals.

Five new features are at the heart of the redesign. First, the homepage will shift from its profile/friend based schema now to one that includes links to news headlines, weather information, and other features normally associated with a portal.

The navigation bar will be streamlined, and MySpace TV will allow full-screen viewing of content. Search will be improved, and will make it easier for users to locate people and multimedia.

Profile editing will be made easier, which obviously is an answer to the massive popularity of various profile editors that now are commonplace across the Web. While the editor will be basic at first, MySpace plans to allow users to add snippets of content easily to their sites, much like the way Facebook already does.

MySpace says it has spent about six months on the site, and says it will make the site easier to use than its predecessor. It is also making these changes to attract new users to the site outside of its typical teen and young adult-based demographic.

Facebook is not too far behind however -- a new redesign of that site is scheduled to debut some time this month, the company says.

News of MySpace's revamp comes as data from comScore in April indicated that on a worldwide basis, Facebook had caught up in monthly unique visitors to its larger rival. Both are now garnering about 115 million visitors to their respective sites.

The crux of Facebook's surge comes from its success overseas. Here in the US, MySpace still sees about twice as many visitors to its pages than its competitor, although that is down from a two-to-one ratio this time last year.

Based on that data, and assuming trends continue, the site is still at least four years away from catching MySpace here in the States. Either way, the rapidly growing popularity of Facebook likely is a cause for concern for the once dominant social network.

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