Competition in the online social network space continues to heat up, as providers respond to the call from developers eager to create and share applications in an expansive environment. The result is developer platforms that outside developers can tap into to create applications that network members can seamlessly incorporate into their profiles and conversations. MySpace is the latest social networking site to launch such a platform.
MySpace launched the MySpace Developer Platform in February, officially opening its network to outside developers. As of this writing, the applications were scheduled to be revealed to users in March, after a month of development and testing—nearly a year after rival social networking site Facebook launched its own developer platform in May 2007.
Offering such application sharing capabilities to developers is quickly becoming a requirement for providers such as MySpace, says John Blossom, president of Shore Communications, Inc., a consulting and research services firm in Connecticut. “It’s necessary for social networking site providers to make it easier for publishers to embed their content and their capabilities in the social media because that’s where the conversations have moved,” says Blossom.
The goal was to provide developers with a seamless way in which to build and share their creations—and not interrupt conversations. “We wanted to make a platform for outside developers to actually build and integrate their code, their creativity, and their ideas into our site in a direct way,” says Kyle Brinkman, VP and general manager of MySpace’s developer platform. “As early as a couple of years ago, we planned for this.” Part of that plan included MySpace’s support of Google’s OpenSocial initiative, which is focused on developing a common set of APIs for adoption by social networking sites. The goal of OpenSocial is to enable applications built on those APIs to operate on multiple social networking sites.
In addition, the site contains developer platform documentation, sample code, a developer team blog (which will connect outside developers with MySpace developers), and forums (where developers can communicate with each other). In essence, it’s just furthering the connection that MySpace already had with these outside developers. “From the beginning, we’ve had an important relationship with outside developers, building widgets and other kinds of integrated content that our users have been putting on their profiles, from companies like YouTube to small mom-and-pop shops,” says Brinkman.
But getting that content to profiles wasn’t a particularly seamless process, something that the developer platform was designed to change. “The process, up until this point, has been cumbersome for users and developers because it involved cutting and pasting those widgets into profiles,” adds Brinkman. “For a long time, we wanted to bring that process into MySpace more directly.”
Brinkman notes that developers will be financially rewarded for their creations by monetizing their pages and pocketing the revenues. Developers will also have access to the ad programs (HyperTargeting and SelfServe) that MySpace is building.
The end goal is to provide MySpace members a robust—and uncluttered—experience within the confines of the MySpace community. “We want to make sure that people get exposed to applications, find them, install them, and benefit from them without being overloaded by them,” says Brinkman.
“This developer environment takes the ability to share experiences to the next level,” adds Blossom. “We’re seeing the evolution of a sub-web of new applications, new ways of entertaining people, new ways of communicating. Portals like Facebook and MySpace have become boxes into which these new sets of applications can be dropped. All of a sudden, you don’t have to go looking for the next cool website. The next cool thing comes right onto your webpage. You don’t have to go surfing for it. The idea to be able to embed the next cool content application creates a high degree of loyalty to those applications.”