MySpace, Facebook move to better promote third-party apps

Companies look to help developers make money from apps created for the social networks

SAN DIEGO -- MySpace Inc. and Facebook Inc. today separately announced plans to make it easier for developers to earn money from applications that they build and lob at users of the popular social networks.

MySpace, which officially launched its MySpace Development Platform on Feb. 5, today announced that it will allow third-party developers to use two different MySpace advertising programs to market their applications.

Amit Kapur, chief operating officer at MySpace, said that the company plans to let developers use both its HyperTargeting and SelfServe programs as part of a third phase of opening its platform to developers. Previously, the programs were open only to companies to advertise their products or services to MySpace users.

Kapur, who did not provide details on when developers could gain access to the programs, made the announcement at the O'Reilly Graphing Social Patterns West 2008 conference here.

SelfServe allows users to create customized advertisements with a new ad-creation tool, and HyperTargeting allows advertisers to connect with specific user groups based on the interests they express in their MySpace user profiles.

"Application developers are businesses -- maybe not today as much [as other businesses], but that is definitely coming in over time," Kapur added. "Application developers need to promote their products. They need to drive traffic."

HyperTargeting, Kapur noted, has already helped some advertisers boost click-through rates by 300%. The MySpace HyperTargeting program uses sophisticated machine-learning tools to analyze all the information provided by users -- including the background themes they choose for their profiles and the photos they post to their blogs -- to identify which products or services a user may be interested in, he added.

"HyperTargeting takes a look at publicly available data and places users into highly targetable interest groups," Kapur said. "While other advertising networks guess about who the user is, we know who the user is. We are going to look to facilitate developers putting these ad types on their pages so we can serve ads on their behalf."

For its part, Facebook announced new efforts to help persuade third-party developers to create more applications to run on its site. To date, more than 98% of the site's 66 million users have used at least one of the 16,000 applications created for by third-party developers, noted Benjamin Ling, Facebook's director of platform product marketing.

Ling said that Facebook plans to allow developers to accept credit card payments for Facebook-based e-commerce applications.

"From a user perspective ... once they've entered their credit card information, they never have to do it again," he said. "[Developers] can experiment with a variety of new applications and try things they haven't been able to do before."

Ling did not disclose when Facebook would begin allowing developers to begin accepting credit cards.

He also announced that Facebook would allow developers to access the same translation tools that the social network used to provide a Spanish version of its site, so developers can translate their applications to different languages.

Ling said that these moves represent the latest attempt by the social network to help developers make money from their Facebook-based applications -- and to provide the best experience possible to its users. For example, last month Facebook announced that it will prohibit applications that require users to invite other friends to sign up before they're permitted to use the application, Ling noted.

"There is a subset of application developers who are relying on a short-term focus and trying to leverage the social graph … and behave in ways that aren't in the long-term benefit of the users," Ling said. "It is bad for the ecosystem. The challenge that … we're issuing to application developers is how to make sure that your applications are highly relevant and engaging."

Facebook last month also announced plans to redesign its profile pages to more prominently display the third-party applications.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon