RemakingMySpace: "Controversial. Bold. Progressive." And Dead.

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The Mysterious Social Search Abyss Of 2010

In the summer of 2009 MySpace hired Katie Geminder, Facebook’s Director of User Experience and Design, as an SVP. Her primary job was to assemble a “swat team” of leading outside designers and user interface experts and re-imagine MySpace from the ground up. That team was made up of four people – including two former Apple designers and one ex-Facebooker – and worked out of a conference room in MySpace’s San Francisco offices for six months. They were creating a new site, located at remakingmyspace.com, and it was going to launch sometime right about now.

RemakingMySpace was going to be a new version of MySpace with every piece of legacy stuff thrown out the door. Users and employees would be solicited for input – to get new ideas and vote on already submitted ones – to rebuild the service brick by brick. Most of the work over the last six months was spent reimagining the design in various ways that would be shown to users, and building tools for the submission and consideration of new ideas. And “users” was broadly defined to include input from artists and bands, advertisers, etc.

It was bold, controversial and progressive, say some sources. And now it’s also very, very dead. Geminder left MySpace last week. And the guy who hired her, former CEO Owen Van Natta, was terminated the week before.

So what happened? The project was trouble from the start. Geminder was strongly pushing the project, obviously, and had the support of Van Natta. But she was working outside of Chief Product Officer Jason Hirschhorn’s organization. Hirschhorn hated the idea from the start, say multiple sources, and constantly worked to undermine it. He favored a much more straightforward redesign effort. And, sources say, VP Product Mike Macadaan was also an outsider to the project, and strongly disapproved say of the whole process.

None of that mattered as long as Van Natta was CEO and was able to push the project along. But once he was gone and Mike Jones and Hirschhorn took over as co-presidents, remakingmyspace was history. Within a day the team was dissolved and moved back into the product organization. The Apple designers, there as consultants, will likely be leaving shortly as their contracts expire.

We’ve spoken with sources on both sides of this. Some say that the the consultants were way too expensive and Hirschhorn and Jones thought the pace of the project was too slow. One source said that almost no work was done at all, and that the team was often absent from the office. But others who knew about the project (the site was live for some MySpace employees) thought it was brilliant, and noted that six months wasn’t all that long for a project of this scope. There was genuine excitement within MySpace over remakingmyspace.com, and some are disgusted that it was all thrown away.

One thing that strikes us as odd is the fact that the chief complaints – expense and time – were no longer relevant. The project was effectively done and the expense of it was behind them. “This was killed out of pure vindictiveness,” says one source. Another said that Hirschhorn never even bothered to really understand it, he just wanted it killed.

So what comes next? A straightforward redesign that won’t rock the boat, says one source. Another says that many of the ideas from remakingmyspace will eventually make their way into whatever MySpace launches. Officially, all MySpace will say is “The reimagination of MySpace’s user interface is a top priority. Under Jason Hirschhorn, VP of Product Mike Macadaan and his team are leading the charge to redesign the site and create a beautiful new and exciting environment for our users.”

We’re now trying to track down and verify screen shots and the new logo for remakingmyspace.com. Stay tuned for updates. And in all fairness, unless and until we’ve seen some of the site for ourselves, there’s no way to know which “side” of the argument is right.

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