MySpace is announcing this morning that it will become an OpenID authenticating party and offer developers a deeper level of access to user data than was previously available.
As Facebook prepares to mark the one year anniversary of its heralded application platform and the new iPhone App Store lures developers with groundbreaking features and customers willing to pay for applications - competition for the attention of the developer community is heating up. Once again, when platforms compete for developers - users win.
OpenID for MySpace
MySpace announced today that it will authenticate users for third party sites that support OpenID. It's not clear how this will work yet, MySpace user profile URLs aren't authenticating and there hasn't been any mention of OpenID on the developers blog today, but we hope that usability won't be an issue here as it has often been for the OpenID world. MySpace now joins AOL and Yahoo! as major providers of OpenID accounts.
Initially MySpace will not act as a relying party, meaning you can't log into MySpace using a Yahoo! OpenID, for example. That's typical and we hope it will change soon.
Most important though is that MySpace is offering a system to verify identity across multiple sites. Verified identity allows for all kinds of interesting data mashup possibilities and that's ultimately going to be more interesting than simple authentication and single sign on. As OpenID Foundation Chair Scott Kveton told us this morning: "its great news that MySpace is not only supporting OpenID but really looking at ways to integrate data and real functionality that is beyond authentication. This will be the real driver of OpenID adoption."
Already this morning a number of partner sites are taking advantage of the new ability to cache user data from MySpace. Movie review site Flixter and events site Eventful are the initial examples. Flixter users can now create an account and log in using their MySpace account via the secure standard protocol OAuth. They are then able to see movie reviews on Flixter that were made by friends on MySpace. Eventful integration will send alerts via MySpace when favorite musicians are in visiting a user's home town. Those are good and useful examples.
The possibilities here are many and remind us of the kinds of things the Google Social Graph API enables web-wide and the kind of functionality that Facebook apps are able to leverage on-site using Facebook friend networks. The MySpace functionality will let any site know who your MySpace friends are and highlight their activity on that 3rd party site and apparently 3rd parties will also be able to write to your MySpace account as well.
Profile data can now be cached for up to 24 hours at a time. Supported fields from MySpace include About me, Body type, Children, Drinker, Ethnicity, Has app, Heroes, ID, Interests, Jobs, Looking for, Movies, Music, Name, Network presence, Profile song, Profile URL, Relationship status, Religion, Sexual orientation, Smoker, Status and TV shows. Picture MTV.com noticing that you've changed your relationship status, playing a music video for your favorite song and recommending that you light up an American Spirit to celebrate. That brave new world is right around the corner!
Facebook vs. MySpace vs. Google vs. Apple
The competition is heating up from all the major social networks vying to get developers to build applications on their platforms. That means those companies are racing to offer the most advanced, wide ranging and user-seductive platform for application developers to tie their imaginations to.
The end result should be some really exciting applications. Facebook proved that a simple development environment will lead to 3rd parties building apps if not businesses inside your website. Google is embracing some standards but is also aiming for the long tail of small social networks and individual websites through OpenSocial and Google Friend Connect (iframes). Apple has proven that users are willing to pay for applications and that brand new features like a touchscreen, location awareness and mobility are hard not to fall in love with. LinkedIn is holding its upper class user demographic close to its chest and entering into selective strategic partnerships, like last night's with the NYTimes.
Enter MySpace and its large, broad base of users. Though much maligned in some circles, MySpace is evolving quickly in the face of competition and offers huge mainstream audiences.
It should be an exciting contest. We're excited to see the next steps these platforms take as they seek the upper hand and we're at the edge of our seats to see how the developer community will take advantage of what's offered. Say what you will about MySpace - it's a key participant in this era of powerful innovation.