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MySpace Builds a Bigger Walled Garden

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MySpace today launched announced a data availability initiative that will allow users to opt in to sharing their MySpace information on a variety of partner sites. While not exactly complete data portability (the social networking company also said it was joining the Data Portability Project), it’s a start.

MySpace is launching its data availability efforts with Yahoo, eBay, Twitter and Photobucket some time within the next several weeks. Steve Pearman, SVP of product strategy at MySpace, says other partners will be able to join “in a few weeks,” after agreeing to some basic terms and conditions aimed at preventing user data from being abused. I asked if someone could port their MySpace info onto their Facebook page if Facebook asked to join, to which Pearman responded by saying he wouldn’t want to tell anyone where they could or could not port their data.

Users can go to their MySpace page and access controls that will allow them to instantly opt out of sharing their data with sites if they decide to change their minds. In time, users will be able to select which aspects of their MySpace information they want to share with sites, but for now it’s an all-or-nothing decision.

Update: So after sitting in on the conference call, I get the idea that MySpace wants to be the “Intel Inside” of the social web. However, unlike the easy-to-monetize business of selling hardware, the business of controlling someone’s Internet persona and profile doesn’t have an obvious monetization strategy.

When asked how this data availability initiative will help MySpace, CEO and cof-ounder Chris DeWolfe said it falls in line with MySpace’s core principals to create a more open and social Internet, that it “takes the notion of third-party widgets and OpenSocial to the next level.”

Pearman responded to a direct question about monetization by talking about how a rising tide lifts all boats, but didn’t provide any detail as to how MySpace can sell more ads, especially if it’s sending its users to other parts of the web while making it easy for others to avoid joining the social networking site.

This morning, News Corp. said revenue dropped for MySpace and its Fox Interactive Media division because it’s hard to sell advertising on social networks. Problems include too many players going after advertisers, which is driving the CPMs down; the fact that most people aren’t going to the site with a mindset appropriate for viewing ads; and figuring out appropriate metrics to measure the success of online campaigns.

Monetization may be murky right now, but I do think controlling someone’s digital persona is worth something. And make no mistake — MySpace is still controlling this data, even as it gives users the ability to ship it across the web. Unless a site actually agrees to MySpace’s terms and conditions, a user can’t port their data to it, leaving the decision about where data goes in MySpace’s hands rather than the user’s. That control may derive from benign intents to prevent the abuse of user data, but users are still locked into MySpace’s walled garden.

So, the question for monetizing that data will be whether or not MySpace can use it in a way that makes it money without hacking off privacy advocates.

16 Responses to “MySpace Builds a Bigger Walled Garden”

  1. Mary Specht

    “This morning, News Corp. said revenue dropped for MySpace and its Fox Interactive Media division because it’s hard to sell advertising on social networks.”

    Doesn’t matter if they can monetize social networks per se. If other, more monetize-able sites use MySpace’s information or social networking tools, MySpace could take a cut for serving targeted ads on the third party site. Right?

  2. The word is “principles” not “principals” (principals run schools and principal is what you get paid interest on at the bank).

    I agree with the analysis that this is a strategy to position MySpace as the central social networking platform rather than just be a site. With OpenSocial and the obvious popularity of portability, it makes sense to throw your hat in the ring, I just worry about security like techsadhu.

    From a monetization angle, if you can join one social site and then share the info elsewhere, you are more likely to sign up with that one rather than join multiple sites and have to remember potentially different usernames/passwords.

    It seems that this is closer to what Flux has been doing although still not exactly the same.

  3. Curiously, I really worry about MySpace users are going to figure out how to appropriately figure out “data availability” and how to be responsible or reasonable about their choices about data federation when, for the life of me, I can’t make heads nor tails of the MySpace UI. At least *prior* to making my data “available” I could hope that MySpace was keeping an iron-fist grip on my data; now, well, I could inadvertently share my data with some lonelySpammer115 with a misclick.

    Not that this is necessarily bad news — if anything, it’s kicking the dead horse and having it neigh once more.

    Oh, and I love how transparent MySpace is being about how they’re developing their plans, and about how they intend to make their data *actually* available.


  4. ‘Data Portability’ sounds good to the ears, but what about Data Security.

    What is shared with whom, when and how? Moreover, does the consumer have complete control over data dissemination? MySpace along with it’s Partners need to address this issue, in accordance with their INDIVIDUAL TOS.