MySpace Data Availability Initiative
Just curious, but do you think even though they are competitors, the top guns at MySpace, Facebook and Google spend all their time on Gmail chatting about when and how they’ll release the news of their latest endeavors to move towards data portability? Or maybe they have spies in each other’s camps sending smoke signals home at night spilling the beans of latest plans to take over your data profile? Flashbacks to Pinky and Brain cartoons spill over into my daytime routine. In either case, it’s been a busy couple of weeks with Facebook announcing Facebook Connect, then last night Google previewed Friend Connect. Now we read all about MySpace’s “Data Availability” initiative – not to be confused with Data Portability – which allows MySpace members to share their public profile with websites of their choice. Is this the year of the “User Identity Battle”? MySpace is not alone in this initiative. They are partnering with Yahoo!, eBay, Photobucket, and Twitter to enable the MySpace community to share their public profile information.

Data Availability -- User Interface

MySpace members will be provided with a central location where they can manage how their content and data is provided to other sites of their choosing. Users will continue to maintain their information in MySpace, but can now share some of that information with other sites like Twitter, instead of re-creating the content for each social network they are a part of. This is an opt-in framework – it’s not automatic. To start off, MySpace and it’s Data Availability Initiative Partners will allow users to share content such as: * Public basic profile information * MySpace photos * MySpaceTV videos * Friend Networks

Partner Website Functionality

Sites that want to participate in this “data sharing” with MySpace can do so through the use of open standards such as OAUTH and Restful APIs, both of which are the core technologies used in this initiative. MySpace says this is just the first step towards some larger data portability initiatives. They also stated that they have joined the Data Portability Project, something that demonstrates their commitment to “openness” and open standards.

Data Availability on Partner Sites

Each participating site can incorporate data availability in a number of ways. These are how the MySpace partners have chosen to do it: * Yahoo!: The viewing of MySpace data can appear in a few places including as a part of Yahoo! IM contact information, within the Yahoo! universal profile, or in Yahoo! Mail’s smarter box. * Twitter: Twitter profiles will be updated with MySpace profile information like bios, blogs and photos. * Photobucket: Photobucket users can have a single view of their photos across services. They can also opt-in to display MySpace profile data in their Photobucket albums. Users can also leverage the existing connections with MySpace without having to re-do these connections or friends lists. * eBay: eBay profiles can now include MySpace profile data such as bios, interests, pictures and videos.

True Data Portability – Not!

While this all sounds sort of good, not everyone thinks so. David Recordon blogged about this announcement on the O’Reilly Radar. He said that he spoke with a reporter who sat on the MySpace briefing call and got some disturbing information. Due to terms of service that MySpace has, participating sites like Twitter are not allowed to cache or store any of the profile information they display on their site from MySpace. According to Recordon, their options are limited and nowhere close to being examples of data portability. “At the end of the day it seems that MySpace is trying to become a large centralized profile repository on the internet. One where information might be available but certainly not allowed to be actually moved outside the network's walls.” Recordon also indicated that Chris Saad, DataPortability’s co-founder hopes that this initiative will evolve to “becoming a compliant implementation of the DataPortability Best Practices.” It’s hard to feel good about any of these announcements. It just feels like a big struggle between the bullies to get our lunch money. One may sweeten the deal a little more than the other, but they can’t all have it. Because if we divide it up between them, we’ll never get true data portability.