By pressing a single button, MySpace users can hide their entire profile to everyone but their friends. The feature will be implemented in a couple of weeks.
It's a great idea, and one that Facebook should use in addition to its labyrinthine maze of granular controls, but don't think this means MySpace is gearing up to fight Facebook in earnest. It can't, and it won't.
MySpace already conceded its war with Facebook. Last October, then-chief executive Owen Van Natta said the site would become a Web content portal for music, video and games. Van Natta resigned in February, but the idea of a new strategy remains. The site's new co-presidents, Mike Jones and Jason Hirschorn, want to make MySpace a place to discover all sorts of new content, from music to games, and even friends.
So, the thrust behind MySpace's privacy announcement is not to convert people from Facebook, but to remind people that MySpace still exists, and to check it out. The old rivalry is rekindled for just long enough to get some attention.
Not that it'll work. The pitch conveniently forgets that MySpace's issues had little to do with privacy, and had a lot to do with spam, hacks and malware that seemed to overrun the site. I'm not sure that people will forgive and forget so quickly.
More importantly, MySpace doesn't do a good job selling itself, at least not to me. I had a MySpace account, and closed it after getting one spam e-mail too many. Going back, it's not clear why I should set up a new account. There's a big banner for an app called "Fame Turns Me On," which you can't actually use without signing in, and little else to draw the eye. If this is content portal, where's the content?
MySpace is still in flux. I don't think the site has fully fleshed out the strategy its new co-presidents envisioned, and at the very least it doesn't make a compelling case to new visitors. So while a change to privacy settings in the wake of Facebook's troubles is opportunistic, it couldn't have come at a worse time.