Updated at 9:47 p.m. PDT with more details.
News Corp.'s MySpace is set to release a major redesign next week, company representatives said late Thursday evening. The site doesn't look that different; it's still clearly MySpace. But a number of features have been revamped to improve user experience: namely, the homepage, navigation tools, profile editor, search features, and the MySpaceTV player.
A formal release is set to go out on Monday, and the first new features will show up on the site on Wednesday.
The redesign effort has been under way for more than six months, with the goals of appealing to a broader demographic and letting users interact with the site more (i.e. keeping them around), and has involved in-home studies for testing purposes.
The relaunch of the homepage proper has been kept somewhat under wraps, likely because a "major" advertiser is set to take over the site when it debuts. But MySpace has been liberal with the details of most of the other new improvements. They're not particularly revolutionary, but should still do a thing or two to combat user experience complaints on the social network.
The MySpace profile editing tool, for example, has been modified so that HTML expertise is less of a prerequisite. A sidebar lets users browse through themes and alter them with a color palette, rather than hard-coding changes.
The MySpaceTV player, which technically competes with YouTube, has been improved to support high-definition video and improved full-screen mode as part of the Flash 9 release. The embeddable player now has internal search as well as a way to view the top MySpace videos; it's still playing catch-up with the likes of YouTube, but it's still a big improvement.
One of the most heavily altered sections of the new MySpace is search; now, MySpace members will navigate through a set of tabs to search personal profiles, music profiles, the entire MySpace site, videos on MySpaceTV, or the Web as a whole. The site has also worked with the Lucene open-source search engine project.
MySpace's chief rival, Facebook, is also set to unveil a redesigned profile page in the near future; developers on its application platform are already testing it out. MySpace's redesign does not appear to alter the experience for developers who are building on its OpenSocial-compatible platform.
MySpace additionally has a data portability project, "Data Availability," on the way.