Google Absent from MySpace Data Portability Initiative

MySpace's technology chief says Google, or any company, can join its Data Availability program at any time.

MySpace's Data Availability initiative may break the ice for other social networks when it comes to data portability, especially with Yahoo, eBay, Twitter and Photobucket lending it legitimacy by participating.

But one of the glaring absentees from the effort, which will let users move MySpace data onto other sites, was Google.

To this point, Google and MySpace have been in lockstep on data portability efforts. MySpace has been a fervent supporter of the OpenSocial API, and joined Google in creating the OpenSocial Foundation. But now MySpace has seemingly attained a new level of openness sans the search giant.

MySpace Senior Vice President of Technology Jim Benedetto wouldn't say whether or not MySpace had formally invited Google to the effort, telling eWEEK after the conference call about the initiative May 8 that Data Availability is so open that anyone can join without even contacting MySpace.

"I think there's probably going to be significant use cases across the entire Internet-Google included-where people are going to build more robust feature offerings to their users by leveraging MySpace data," Benedetto said.

He also said the effort is not based on OpenSocial but on its own REST APIs, with security vetted through the open-source security protocol OAuth. This is mostly because the OpenSocial REST API spec has not reached full fruition, he said, adding that MySpace would support that spec once it is complete.

Google did not respond to questions about whether or not it will join MySpace's Data Availability effort.

Forrester analyst Charlene Li told eWEEK that it's only a matter of time before Google joins. In fact, she expects that most Web sites will support data portability implementations from MySpace or some other social network in the future because users are clamoring for control over their Web-based data.

"The hard part is making sure the permissions and privacy controls are in place," Li said.

That was the challenge Benedetto said MySpace faced heading into this initiative.

What users will see is a central control panel, a kind of mission control page that lets users determine what data can end up on which Web site. When users visit Yahoo, Twitter or any third-party site integrated with MySpace, they will see a button or link asking if they want their MySpace data to be included on that site, Benedetto said.

For example, when users click on the MySpace button on Twitter, they will be directed to an official MySpace page that outlines exactly what data they will share with Twitter. To opt in, users will enter their MySpace user name and password for proper credentialing through OAuth. Once users are accepted, they are taken back to their Twitter profiles to see their MySpace data, such as photos and interests.

In the future, MySpace's central control panel will feature granular access control. Currently, the effort lets users share information with one site while blocking access to that info on another site. Eventually, MySpace will enable users to share a piece of data with Web site A, while sharing another piece of data with Web site B, simply by checking off boxes, Benedetto said. Moreover, users can opt to revoke data sharing on any site they choose, barring the third-party sites from caching or storing that content.

Also, Benedetto said he isn't leaving out the mom-and-pop shops that want to participate in making the Web a little more open. MySpace will release client-side tools so sites with minimal technical expertise will be able to make features available to their users.

These tools will include standard JavaScript controls for client-side embedding of MySpace content and data, and standard server-side controls that enable this functionality from the third-party servers in MySpace's Rest API controls for external site access.

To fortify its data portability effort, MySpace has just joined the Data Portability Project. Benedetto referred to Data Availability as the first step in the company's data portability quest, but he declined to tip his hand on how else the company would provide users with greater data access.

"They're going to gain a lot from doing it," Li told eWEEK. Li in particular expressed excitement about eBay's participation, noting that the MySpace profile information could help buyers and sellers get a handle on who is trustworthy or not.