MySpace is set to launch its 3rd party developer platform in just a few weeks, according to sources speaking to Michael Arrington at TechCrunch. If what Arrington is reporting is true (and it almost always is) then things are really changing at the industry leading social network. By this time next year you'll be getting spam from MySpace applications and be running to shut off your account altogether. If you feel embarrassed perusing the Facebook apps directory ("yes mom, these are my peers, this is the new frontier - let's send some 'booze mail!'"), you'll feel nauseas when you see the MySpace apps directory.
It was just one year ago last month that News Corp. chief operating officer Peter Chernin told company investors that "if you look at virtually any Web 2.0 application...almost all of them are really driven off the back of MySpace." Chernin's statement was a hostile one, said in the context of the company blocking access to some third party widgets and shutting off outbound links that were key to viral spread of all widgets, for purported security purposes.
The company aimed instead to drive users towards its own photo, video and audio services. Those services are remarkably good compared to the 3rd party alternatives, and yet the debate raged on.
Tech bloggers, and TechCrunch in particular, kept a running tally of third party developers whose companies were shut down by threats from MySpace.
MySpace engaged in a huge battle with Photobucket over running ads on MySpace pages, ending in a large acquisition of Photobucket.
Now Arrington reports that rumor has it MySpace platform developers will be allowed to run ads and keep 100% of the revenue.
What's This All About?
Does MySpace see the writing on the wall? If so, what does it say? I have said before and I'll say again that the rise of Facebook has been in spite of the opening of the Facebook platform, if anything. It's a result of the maturing demographics of social networking services, a backlash against the wretched user experience of the poorly designed and spam ridden MySpace and the power of syndication represented by the Facebook wall.
That wall functionality will be the most significant development that other companies take from Facebook. The open development platform may very well make a difference at Google, it could move the needle at LinkedIn (in a year when that platform launches) but it's very unlikely that it will be important at MySpace or anywhere else. As Kara Swisher wrote today, the vast majority of apps developed for the much-vaunted Facebook platform - including the most successful ones, are vapid wastes of time.
It's the newsfeed, clean site and well designed user experience of Facebook that really matters - and perhaps privacy. These platforms will just be the bush leagues for the real companies to watch features be developed before building the same things - as features, and they'll be ad networks for a handful of lowest-common-denominator, dust-weight apps. Arrington says the MySpace platform will require that apps built on it are hosted on the MySpace platform!
In other words, I don't expect a MySpace platform to account for a whole lot. If the "open platform on huge monolith's terms" meme ever has any meat on it, I don't expect it will be in the long-hostile quarters of MySpace.