MySpace Launches Developer Platform with OpenSocial

MySpace's developer platform is based on the OpenSocial API.

Software programmers can now start building applications on the MySpace Developer Platform Site, which the largest social network launched Feb. 5 to capitalize on the success bred by Facebook's wildly popular developer platform.

The MySpace platform is different from Facebook's platform in a key way. Programmers will access MySpace's platform through an open-source API (application programming interface) from OpenSocial, which Google, MySpace and other vendors created last year to standardize the way applications are created on social networking sites.

Facebook's platform, on top of which more than 7,000 applications have been built since it launched in May, employs a proprietary API to access the site.

MySpace Chief Technology Officer Aber Whitcomb told eWEEK Feb. 4 that the benefit of using the OpenSocial API instead of home-rolled APIs is that developers don't have to drastically rewrite applications when they move them around from one social site to the next.

Another difference between Facebook's platform and the MySpace Developer Platform, is that software developers will have one month to "democratize the development process" by building, testing and running applications on MySpace. During this time, end users will not be able to access these applications.

When the testing phase ends in March, users will be able to access the site's Application Gallery and add new applications to their personal user home (where only they can use them) and profile pages, where their friends can use them.

"This will allow the users of MySpace to decide what applications they like and not MySpace," Whitcomb said. "That lead time for the developers makes a big difference."

To ensure user privacy, Whitcomb said the applications will be able to access only that profile information which is already available, which includes friend lists, interests, photos, albums and video.

The security is possible through Caja, a JavaScript sanitizer developed by Google in cooperation with MySpace to ensure that applications are safe for end users.

Whitcomb said applications will go through a rigorous safety review process before going live to users, and that he and his team plan to keep an eye out for applications that are natively built get more attention by spamming users.

With the preservation of users' online data in mind, users will not be able to export their MySpace social data to other social sites. Facebook has taken a lot of flak for the lack of data portability on its site, but this is a technical challenge that continues to stump every social network.

The MySpace Developer Platform Site includes three sets of APIs: OpenSocial with MySpace extensions to enable JavaScript and HTML; action scripts that allow Flash to communicate with the APIs; and REST (Representational State Transfer) to allow servers to communicate better, thereby serving applications faster.

MySpace is launching a Developer Team Blog to enable MySpace programmers to communicate with application developers. The company is also letting developers test applications on certain profiles in a developer sandbox.

MySpace is also letting programmers keep all of the money they make through their canvas page through ads, sponsorships and product sales. MySpace will add its HyperTargeting and SelfServe ad products in the future, Whitcomb said.