MySpace announces 'Data Availability' project with Yahoo, eBay, Photobucket, Twitter

New initiative will allow the News Corp.-owned social network's members to share their profile data with other sites.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
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This post was updated at 10:34 a.m. PDT.

News Corp.-owned social-networking site MySpace has announced a new initiative called Data Availability, a way for members to share profile data with other social and community sites across the Web.

Co-founder and CEO Chris DeWolfe, Chief Operating Officer Amit Kapur, and vice president of technology Jim Benedetto announced the new development in a press call Thursday. DeWolfe called it "an innovative offering to empower the global MySpace community to share their public profile content and data to Web sites of choice throughout the Internet."

Inaugural partners in the project are Yahoo, eBay, Photobucket (also owned by News Corp.'s Fox Interactive Media), and Twitter. The program, available to MySpace's users worldwide, will be rolling out to a full version in the coming weeks.

"Historically, social destinations on the Internet have operated as independent, autonomous islands," DeWolfe said. "Today, MySpace no longer operates as an autonomous island on the Internet...We're hoping to create a significantly more social experience across the Web."

This is a huge deal.

When rival Facebook, then far smaller than MySpace, opened its platform to developers last year, the bigger social network started to fall from favor among the tech-savvy set. But Facebook has been reluctant to partner with other sites outside of allowing them to create developer applications, only recently allowing RSS feeds from partners like Digg and Yelp into its members' "news feeds." When popular blogger Robert Scoble tested a script that exported his Facebook contact information to a Plaxo address book, Facebook temporarily banned his account.

Facebook still hasn't caught up in user accounts--it has about 70 million, while MySpace is over 100 million--but MySpace was in need of some tech cred regardless. Signing on to "open Web" initiatives could be what keeps MySpace relevant, and it's clear that some engineers over there are tuned in. It was one of the biggest partners when Google announced the OpenSocial developer application standard last year, and one of the "founding partners" along with Google and Yahoo when OpenSocial was spun off into its own nonprofit organization.

"Socially dynamic Web destinations should be portable," DeWolfe said, "and should allow users to import and export aspects of their platform."

Amit Kapur said that Data Availability is "founded first and foremost on allowing users to have comprehensive control over their content and data." Partnerships with Yahoo, eBay, Photobucket, and Twitter will give MySpace access to more than 150 million U.S. Internet users, he explained, with an 85 percent reach in the U.S. Web user market. Smaller sites, as well as other large social networks, are invited to join the program, too.

That public profile information consists of information like photos, videos, and profile content like favorite movies and music as well as friends' lists. Changing data on one profile automatically changes it on the partner sites as well, which users can opt into "connecting" to their MySpace profiles by clicking a button. "This is incredibly powerful and makes an entirely new social experience available to our users," Benedetto explained. MySpace will be rolling out a central control panel to handle it. "A user can update their profile on MySpace and dynamically share that information with the other sites they care about," Kapur said.

All authentication will be handled through OAuth (Open Authorization), and technology director Benedetto said the company is looking at other "open and nonproprietary standards." Currently, OpenID is not supported, but he said that MySpace is exploring the possibility.

MySpace is also officially joining the social-networking project known as the DataPortability Workgroup, which contains members from many other major social sites across the Web.

JavaScript and server-side controls will be released over the next few weeks for partner sites' administrators to have access to public MySpace data. Benedetto said that MySpace will be "aggressive" to make sure that profile data is not exploited by third parties.

The big question: Will Facebook want to be a part of it? "This project is open to any site out there that wants to work with us," DeWolfe said, "so we're happy to work with Facebook if they want to join up with us on this project."