Because it comes nearly a year after Facebook started the social network development craze, it’s important to look at how the MySpace Developer Platform Site, as it’s called, is different from its rival and predecessor, where millions of electronic sheep and edibles have been digitally tossed.
MySpace Chief Technology Officer Aber Whitcomb told me that unlike Facebook with its proprietary APIs, MySpace is enabling programmers to access its platform through the OpenSocial API, an open-source-based programming interface created by Google, MySpace and others in the network in 2007.
This means programmers will be able to build applications on MySpace and run them on other sites in the OpenSocial Network, including Ning, Bebo, Friendster and several others, without substantially rewriting them to fit the code orientations of the other sites in the network.
An open development platform is nice, but I would have preferred a bigger announcement: that users would be able to export their social data out of MySpace for use on other social sites, or data portability. That would be quite a way for the social network to make people sit up and take notice. Instead, we have MySpace playing “me too” after Facebook.
The problem is a sticky one. In order for MySpace to announce something like that, it would have to congregate with several other social sites, probably starting with the ones in the OpenSocial network. These vendors all seem to be pretty friendly, united by the cause.
I asked Whitcomb about the data portability issue. His response: “There are certain things that we are looking at, there are data portability initiatives going around right now. We are open to those kinds of things if they protect the users and the users are asking for them. One of the biggest potential issues with that is that users’ data may not stay secure.”
Truer words were never spoken. MySpace should join Dataportability.org to enter into that conversation, and I have no doubt it will because it is friendly with Google, Twitter, Plaxo and others in the group.
We need these vendors to come together and hash out the technical challenges of moving our data from one place to another, so why is this secondary to opening up a developer platform?
It’s time to start thinking about valuable consumer services, and less about consumer entertainment and helping programmers build out your site for you.