The MySpace platform: now official

The rumours of MySpace launching a platform or API have been floating for quite some time, but now as reported on the O’Reilly Radar they have been confirmed.

Over the next two months they are going to increase third-party access to their site. First, they are going to highlight the thousands of widgets that have been on their site for years now. This should be released in the next couple of weeks. I am assuming that it will go beyond the FIM’s Spring Widget Gallery. Second, they are going to offer an API for applications to all developers. However, these applications are going to be sandboxed initially and 1-2 million users will have access to them. If the users deem the applications safe and useful they’ll be available to all users. Developers will be able to advertise in their applications.

It’ll be interesting to see whether the MySpace platform and API are truly a step towards openness or whether it’ll be another walled garden a la facebook. Facebook’s platform is phenomenally successful, but doesn’t really open up their core data (status, events, etc.) for developers to interact with. Given their track record it’s unlikely that MySpace are really going to launch something more open that that.

For developers, and for the musicians whose presence is MySpace’s key calling card, this is a tiny step but not one that makes easier the services that we really need. Musicians still need to update their information across dozens of walled gardens rather than having easy tools to use. Developers still need to scrape and hack if they want to provide a way to access core parts of users’ profile, and unless MySpace address the many, many technical problems on their site (unreliability, apparently random use of captchas, awful HTML) that’s going to remain a huge hassle.

Of course, the key question will be whether this announcement will help MySpace retain their pre-eminent position. The crown has slipped over the last few months, with facebook’s popularity rocketing and people deleting MySpace contacts and accounts in order to focus on just one social network. I suspect MySpace will never get their crown back. If they do, it’ll have to be because they’ve radically changed the social networking game.

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