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MySpace, Facebook bantering at Web 2.0 conference

A recap of some of what was said at the event on Wednesday night.

From left to right: Chris DeWolfe, Rupert Murdoch, John Battelle
Rafe Needleman/CNET Networks

Recently, rumors have been flying over whether or not MySpace would use this week's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco as a venue for announcing a developer platform akin to Facebook's. Well, now we have a final answer: sort of.

MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch took the stage at Web 2.0 and confirmed that the company is working on a platform that will launch "within a couple of months." But when no date's given, expect delays: considering how long we ultimately waited for Windows Vista (and now, Apple's OS X Leopard) this could mean the MySpace platform is even further off than we think. And the company did say that it won't be open to all users immediately, with a "sandbox" of one or two million beta testers preceding its full launch.

In the meantime, the company will be creating a central directory of embeddable HTML widgets, and the site's privacy controls will be growing more extensive.

The whole announcement is interesting, considering that over the past few months MySpace has been announcing original programming, hosting concert tours and partnering with record labels, making some observers (like this one) wonder whether the social network was veering away from the Facebook model and would be diving into the role of a pop-culture hub--which former leader MTV, with its newfound penchant for reality shows about rich kids, has largely vacated.

But with a somewhat premature announcement about a developer platform, MySpace has made it clear that while the site enjoys a traffic and membership advantage over Facebook, it's still following in its fast-growing rival's footsteps when it comes to technology.

Facebook, meanwhile, was represented at the Web 2.0 Conference by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose conversation with event organizer John Battelle of Federated Media kicked off the summit. Zuckerberg, notorious for ducking questions, said that an initial public offering is "years off." In other news, its massive financing round is under way and near completion.

And having extra investor cash is particularly important for Facebook--a report from the Silicon Alley Insider highlighted an eyebrow-raising Zuckerberg soundbite of "we don't focus on optimizing the revenue." Ouch. Luckily, the 23-year-old CEO also said that an improved advertising system is on its way.

TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld commented that "Zuckerberg has already mastered the technique of saying nothing, while still hinting at the endless possibilities before him."