MySpace embraces data portability

Signs up Yahoo, eBay, Photobucket and Twitter for new Data Availability project

MySpace Inc. today unveiled its response to one of the most contentious issues surrounding social networking -- information portability -- with a new project that allows its users to share content from their profiles with any Web site.

The new MySpace Data Availability project is the first in a series of initiatives by the company to support data portability, allowing users to take the content they create in one network and easily add it to other sites, MySpace said. Until now, social networking sites like MySpace have favored the "walled garden" approach, where they essentially lock their users into their own site.

MySpace said that it has signed agreements with Yahoo, eBay, Photobucket and Twitter to participate in the project. Over the next several weeks, MySpace users will be able to add their MySpace data to those sites with the click of a button, noted Chris DeWolfe, CEO and co-founder of MySpace.

"We are pioneering a new way for the global community to integrate their social community experiences Webwide," DeWolfe said. "Today, MySpace no longer operates as an autonomous island on the Internet. Your personal online social profile will become your Internet address. Socially dynamic Web destinations should be portable."

Here's how the project will work: MySpace will create a central location within its site where users can manage how their content and data are made available to selected third-party sites. The system will allow users to share publicly available basic profile information, MySpace photos, MySpaceTV videos and friend networks.

Users can gain access to the partner sites by entering their MySpace username and passwords, noted Jim Benedetto, senior vice president of technology at MySpace. Users can instantaneously revoke permissions allowing third-party sites to access their data. To ensure user privacy, third-party sites will never store or cache any of the MySpace data, he added.

In the future, MySpace plans for the project to become more granular and allow its users to opt to select which site gets to see specific pieces of information, he added.

As part of the project, MySpace is providing client and serverside tools that allow any Web site to add features so their users can automatically add their MySpace data to that third-party site, MySpace said.

When asked about the specific benefits to MySpace from the deal and if it would include advertising, DeWolfe said that the main thing MySpace gets from the deal is a "more open and social Internet."

He added that the project is open to any other sites. "We're happy to work with Facebook if they want to join up with us on this project. That goes for any other site out there as well."

MySpace also announced Thursday that it has joined the Data Portability Project, the main workhorse behind recent efforts to create standards to allow social networking users easily transfer data to multiple sites. In January, Digg, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all threw their support behind the project.

Data Portability came to the forefront of the Web 2.0 world in January after prominent blogger Robert Scoble was kicked off Facebook for trying to export his contacts from Facebook to another site. After an uprising of sorts among bloggers and users, he was reinstated by Facebook.

A Yahoo spokesman said in an interview today that although the company is not an official member of the Data Portability Project, it supports the effort. The MySpace Data Availability project complements Yahoo's recently announced Yahoo Open Strategy (YOS), which allows outside developers to create applications for its services. That effort was launched with an eye toward making Yahoo's offerings more social and relevant to its users, the spokesman added.

"The ability to allow people who use MySpace to bring that relevant MySpace data into different experiences on Yahoo is much of the same spirit of what we're trying to do (with YOS) -- make the Yahoo experience more relevant, more social and more customizable for users. Our relationship with [MySpace] would be Yahoo developers using those APIs and crafting the experiences within different Yahoo services. There would be plans to allow users to integrate this kind of stuff across any services across Yahoo where it makes sense for them," the spokesman said.

For example, he said, users that opt to share their MySpace content with Yahoo Instant Messenger may find their MySpace default photo, interests and favorite music displayed to their Messenger contacts directly in the IM client. Or MySpace users could choose to display their data within Yahoo's universal profile or use it in Yahoo's Mail in-box.

EBay profiles can be easily enhanced with MySpace bios, interested, pictures and videos as part of the Data Availability effort, noted Matt Ackley, vice president of Internet marketing at eBay, in a statement. He predicted that the project will enhance eBay profiles and create a better social experience for buyers and sellers.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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