MySpace to let online companies 'plug' services

/ Source: Financial Times

MySpace is likely to change its technology strategy to allow other online companies to "plug" their web services directly into its social networking site, according to Chris DeWolfe, one of its founders.

The move would mark a new step in the evolution of social networks into fully fledged Internet platforms, while opening a new front in the battle for audience share among the web's fastest-growing companies.

The expected change in approach is a reaction to the success of rival Facebook, which last month unveiled a similar step to open its network to outside developers. Although it has less than half as many users as MySpace in the US, Facebook's approach has won it strong backing from other consumer internet companies, which hope it will give them an easier way to reach the network's 27 million members.

More than 1,000 applications and services are already available, letting users do things like publish slideshows of personal pictures to their Facebook pages, or add a box that keeps track of when their favourite bands are playing concerts nearby.

"The [Facebook] platform is interesting," Mr DeWolfe said in an interview with the Financial Times. He argued MySpace's current technology approach gave its users many of the same benefitsbut said: "We'll probably offer users the choice of both."

The aim was to attract more online companies to create services for MySpace's users. "We'll be bringing in more developers."

The race to lure other internet companies to build services on top of their networks reflects an attempt by the social networks to consolidate their recent audience gains and become central parts of the online landscape.

Many internet companies, from Google to Ebay, have started making parts of their platforms available to outside developers, although Facebook's gambit marks a more radical attempt to turn itself into an "open" service.

However, the strategy raises sensitive financial issues that have yet to be resolved. Facebook has said any company that builds services on its network is free to make money from them, for instance through advertising.

MySpace has taken a more restrictive attitude, blocking services that have tried to make money by advertising or selling directly to MySpace members.