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Page last updated at 06:50 GMT, Thursday, 19 June 2008 07:50 UK
MySpace clears up as users jump ship
By Jim Reed
Newsbeat technology reporter

Tom Anderson

The founder of MySpace has told Newsbeat that a major revamp of the site is needed to make it less intimidating for new members.

MySpace has now launched the first stage of a clean up operation designed to attract more casual users and increase the amount of time people spend online.

Changes cover the site's home page, navigation, search and video functions.

MySpace president Tom Anderson said: "We've tried to simplify the site because some people found it too difficult to use and were intimidated by it.

"But we definitely have to make sure that our existing users are not upset.

"If they really don't like it we'll go back to the drawing board and do it again."

Facebook shift

MySpace is still the largest social network in the important US market with a 73% share compared with just 15% for Facebook and 1% for Bebo.

MySpace page
It will be easier for users to embed their own video in their pages
But its audience in the United Kingdom has fallen dramatically over the last year, according to figures seen by Newsbeat.

The internet research company Nielsen Online reckons that 4.7m Brits used the site in April, down 31% on last year.

Facebook, which only overtook MySpace as the UK's largest social network in September 2007, now has 10m active British members.

The amount of time users spend on MySpace fell by 50% to just 49 minutes a month compared with an average of 2 hours and 49 minutes on Bebo and 3 hours and 54 minutes on Facebook.

Over complicated?

Sheryl from Enfield in North London is one of the 1.2m people that have switched from MySpace to Facebook.

She said: "I was on there for about two years but I didn't use it as much as I do Facebook.

"I've still got a page but I just never go on it now. It's quite complicated and it just takes ages to do anything.

"I could go back but only if MySpace becomes a bit more like Facebook. You have more fun designing your page but that's the only thing that's better about it."

Music launch

MySpace hopes its redesign project, which has been in the planning stages for the last seven months, will reverse that trend and attract more casual users back to the site.

MySpace page
Most of the changes to MySpace will go live on 18 June
The company is also betting heavily on a new music library which is expected to go live before the end of the year.

Tom Anderson said: "It's every major label band from Led Zeppelin to Coldplay.

"When you go to a band's MySpace page you will have the full discography of everything they've ever recorded that you can listen to online.

"It is all supported by advertising because, as everyone knows, people are not buying as much music as they were."

Every song will be available to listen to for free from the MySpace website itself but users will still have to pay to download tracks to their computer or MP3 player.

Social network trends

MySpace isn't the only site updating its core look and feel at the moment.

Rival Facebook is also planning a major redesign of its site over the summer.

Both sites are fighting increased competition from a new breed of social networking sites that are rapidly gaining in popularity.

Twitter, which calls itself as a micro-blogging service, lets users exchange short, text-message style status messages with friends and "followers".

The site's UK audience has increased 10-fold over the last year to 135,000 users a month, according to Nielsen Online.

Niche sites like Perfspot and Ning have also showed fast growth in audience numbers over the last year.

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