Can MySpace Mail Topple Facebook Mail, and Would It Matter?

MySpace has begun the global beta rollout of MySpace Mail, the first major feature upgrade for the social network since the company laid off a good portion of its staff and announced that it would be focusing on innovation from here on out. And MySpace may have actually achieved something notable with this one, starting with the new user interface. It’s nice and well thought out, while also able to take advantage of some of the new capabilities that MySpace Mail has to offer.

For instance, the big selling point of the new MySpace Mail is the Mail activity stream, which summarizes all of your mail activity on your mail dashboard, or message center. This gives you a quick run down of what’s been sent to you and when, as well as real time updates as to your friends’ activity. The purpose behind the Mail activity stream is to give a continually flowing stream of accessible data points surrounding the communication threads between you and your friends.

Some additional perks for MySpace Mail is the unlimited storage, as well as the option to send music, photos and videos directly to other users. MySpace Mail also enables messages to be sent in and out of the MySpace network, as each user is assigned an actual email address. Equally notable is the search function for MySpace Mail, which is powered by Google Gears.

Conceptually, MySpace Mail is already a few steps ahead of Facebook in terms of functionality and usability. It’s not often we see MySpace making such leaps as far as features go, but the fact that MySpace already had a great foundation for adding MySpace Mail to each user’s account as well as the perspective to learn from what Facebook has already done have helped MySpace out a great deal here. That’s because MySpace Mail addresses are based on the vanity usernames and URLs that they already provided to users. And the inclusion of the Mail activity stream is in part yet another implementation of the news feed, popularized by Facebook.

Because of these two factors, MySpace Mail is able to better integrate across the MySpace social network, while providing a wealth of value to end users. Why limit mail to basic messaging, which is unable to be searched, and is effectively cut off from the rest of the activity taking place within the network?

It was also smart of MySpace to start its overhaul with updates to MySpace’s messaging system, because this is one of the most effective ways in which MySpace is able to reel in users that have signed out of MySpace or haven’t visited the site in a while. Email alerts to activity updates such as new messages are central to encouraging return visits, and this form of communication is central to the actual networking that takes place across the social site.

But will the “innovation” behind MySpace Mail be enough to topple the gaining dominance of Facebook? Not just yet. People are flocking to Facebook because of a cultural mentality and immediate access to the bulk of their existing social graph, not because of a particular feature set. But as far as MySpace’s comeback is concerned, it does appear that MySpace is on the right track. MySpace Mail is a promising peek at what this social network still has in store.