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Facebook Passes MySpace, And MySpace Looks to Become Something Else

Earlier this week, comScore released numbers to its clients that Facebook has finally surpassed MySpace in terms of unique users in the U.S. It's been inevitable for some time now, but as of this writing, it's official. Facebook had 77 million uniques in May, while MySpace dropped to 68.4 million. In other words, it's not just that Facebook use is surging, but that MySpace use is declining.

One thing that turns people off about the MySpace experience is the confusing, even cheesy interface. So no surprise this morning that MySpace chief Owen Van Natta (a former Facebook guy), is making executive shifts that will have loads of impact on user experience, hiring, per an internal memo posted at TechCrunch, Katie Geminder as senior vp of user experience and design. As I don't follow the wonderful world of user experience gurus, I'd never heard of her, but her resume boasts time at Amazon and Facebook, both sites that are relatively easy to use. (Though I'd tap Amazon with a slight clutter problem.) Another hire is Mike Macadaan, as vp of product. He's worked at AOL, among other places.

Couple this news with the fact that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said at last week's Allen & Co. conference that MySpace would become an "entertainment portal" no doubt building on its strengths as a marketing platform for bands and its huge video archive, and an idea of what MySpace is going to be begins to take shape; it will be an easier to use, cleaner looking entertainment-based social network.

Or will it? while doing some research for this piece, I found a slight disconnect in messaging between what Murdoch said about MySpace's future and what Van Natta said in the internal memo announcing the new design team (and also the departures of senior vp of product Tom Andus and senior vp of international Travis Katz). While Murdoch was casting MySpace as an "entertainment portal", Van Natta told his employees, "Our users don't know if we're a social portal, a music site, or an entertainment hub." To my way of thinking, if Rupert Murdoch thinks it's an entertainment portal, it's an entertainment portal. Now all Van Natta need do is make sure that's clear to users.

Previous coverage of MySpace at BNET Media: