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I can appreciate that there’s a good reason for all the buzz on Techmeme about MySpace hooking up with Yahoo, eBay and Twitter as part of the Data Portability project. Data portability and open standards are a great thing, and it’s nice to see some movement on that front after all of the announcements and back-slapping that went on about it last year — followed by very little movement on anyone’s part. But after all the party favours are handed out and everyone’s finished their MySpace punch, it might be worth noting that this “data portability” initiative still keeps the power very much in MySpace’s hands.

It’s true that the site has agreed to open up its API and allow other providers such as Yahoo and Twitter to extract user data with the OAuth standard. But we’re still talking about data that resides on MySpace’s servers and therefore effectively — according to the terms of use agreement that members sign when they register — belongs to the social network. It’s nice that they are letting you use it elsewhere, but as Stacy Higginbotham at GigaOm points out, they still get to choose which services can play, since they have to agree to MySpace’s terms of service in order to get access to the API. And what if something happens and your account gets deleted for some reason?

Don’t get me wrong — it’s good that MySpace is opening up. And I think it’s great that being the first one to adopt any kind of open standard or interoperability seems to be turning into a competitive advantage. But this is very much about MySpace wanting to become the central storage point for peoples’ data, and then doling out whatever information it wants to the services that it wants to play ball with. Even the praise from the Data Portability Project seems rather faint: it says that it hopes MySpace will someday “evolve toward becoming a compliant implementation” of the project’s best practices. I hope so too.

Update:

Ben Metcalfe, who acted as an advisor to MySpace and is also a co-founder of the Data Portability group, has posted a comment here in which he corrects some misunderstandings of mine about the nature of what MySpace is doing. In particular, he says that the launch partners are not getting any kind of special deal, but were only chosen in order to “have someone to test and debug the implementation with and also have the ability to demonstrate the complete value proposition end-to-end.” Thanks for clarifying things, Ben.

About the author

Mathew 2429 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

6 Responses to “MySpace: We still control your data”
  1. Hey Mathew,

    I was disappointed to read your disappointment with the project. I was wondering whether you could elaborate on a couple of your points…

    “after all the party favours are handed out and everyone’s finished their MySpace punch, it might be worth noting that this “data portability” initiative still keeps the power very much in MySpace’s hands.”

    I'm a bit confused by what you mean by this, or to put it another way, how it falls short of your satisfaction. Anyone can consume the data (assuming permission of the user of course), other than being the social network the said user has chosen to use, I'm a little confused as to how 'all the power is in MySpace's hands. The data has to originate and be delegated from somewhere (otherwise how do you control the deletion or alteration of a piece of data?)

    Perhaps you could elaborate a little, or lay out an alternative setup that would allay your concerns as I'm not clear what that looks like?

    “[MySpace] still get to choose which services can play, since they have to agree to MySpace’s terms of service in order to get access to the API.”

    Yes there will be a Ts & Cs… again, I'm not sure what you are suggesting? There be no Ts & Cs? I'm not sure how having no Ts & Cs helps users around making sure their data is being handled in appropriate ways (that's one of the areas where Data Portability is doing fine work). MySpace, as far as I can see, are not choosing who gets to have access, other than yes asking data consumers to agree to terms. I don't think that's a show stopper.

    Again, really interested to hear your thoughts, esp how this could be implemented differently as I'm somewhat unclear what the proposition you are aspiring to looks like.

    (Disclosure: I am a consultant for MySpace on the overall platform project and I am a co-founder of Data Portability)

  2. Just like Verizon's open network, I wonder if this is a lot of hype. I mean, we have Open Social waiting in the sidelines to take over. Anyway, does anyone even use MySpace anymore anyway, aside from all those spammers?

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