The Facebook effect: MySpace to open up

MySpace may soon open itself up to third-party developers -- in a similar strategy to Facebook -- which would see outside companies able to "plug" their web services into the number one social networking site.

The Financial Times is reporting that MySpace may soon open itself up to third-party developers -- in a similar strategy to Facebook -- which would see outside companies able to "plug" their web services into the number one social networking site. This is of course in direct response to the huge success of Facebook's recently revamped developer platform which has seen hundreds of companies set up shop on the site.

What's most interesting about such a response is that we are now moving into an era where the top networks are using their perceived "openness" as a way of competing -- and in MySpace's case, staying on top. But rather than focusing on opening up as the end game, it's the attraction of becoming a platform rather than a single application which is the real jewel in the crown.

From FT.com:

The move would mark a new step in the evolution of social networks into fully fledged internet platforms, while opening a new front in the battle for audience share among the web’s fastest-growing companies.

Before Facebook's recent developer platform was launched, MySpace was in actual fact the more "open" of the two, because it allows third parties to create embeddable widgets for the site. Based on which, a whole MySpace eco-system has developed, even if it is one built on shaky ground (see my post: 'Beware of the MySpace eco-system).

"The [Facebook] platform is interesting,” Mr DeWolfe [co-founder of MySpace] said in an interview with the Financial Times. He argued MySpace's current technology approach gave its users many of the same benefits but said: "We’ll probably offer users the choice of both."

The aim was to attract more online companies to create services for MySpace’s users. “We’ll be bringing in more developers.”

Bringing in third-party developers will help to drive more traffic to the site, as new applications are added, and the eco-system blossoms -- along with an army of 'evangelists' for the platform. Every MySpace app will be promoted by its developer and existing/new user-base, as well as any missing features being plugged. We're seeing this with Facebook's efforts which are creating incredible buzz, right now.

However, the issue that both social networks have to resolve is how much they will let those third-party developers monetize their apps. Facebook says outside developers are free to do so -- through advertising for example -- and yet technical limitations (no Javascript) make it difficult for AdWords or other dynamic ad platforms to be used. MySpace, on the other hand, has a track record of being very anti third parties profiting from their presence of the site.

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