Note to Everyone: MySpace Is Not the Web. Get Ready to Move On
Stolen from here [Wired.com]
Commentary by Eliot Van Buskirk
MySpace,once the fresh frontier of the internet, found itself a new sheriff by the name of Rupert Murdoch back in 2005. Until recently, he'd been content to let the place be, but those days are over. Murdoch's Fox Interactive, the parent company of MySpace, is tired of other businesses (think YouTube and well-paid artists) piggybacking on the site's success.
During a recent conversation with a MySpace director, I was reminded that MySpace isn't the web -- it's a business. Fair enough. Why shouldn't Fox get a return on its $580 million investment? Why should the company serve up its audience to YouTube, Sony and everyone else who wants a piece of the action for free?
What doesn't make sense is Fox's assumption that the MySpace stronghold (81 percent of the social networking market) can withstand a backlash from developers and users who prefer a more open environment-- even one that hosts ads and the Flash-based widgets that MySpace says are a security threat. In the end, MySpace is just one mass migration away from becoming Tripod.
The company's efforts to circle the wagons and push offending third-party widgets from its site comes at an interesting time. Its closest competitor, Facebook, has unannounced (but confirmed) plans to open its site to third-party widgets for the first time. Ultimately,the two sites could come to resemble each other, but which will users prefer?
Surely, the one that's more open and transparent. That approach has prevailed over and over on the web. Of course, Facebook has a long way to go in catching up to MySpace: Currently, it has only 10 percent of the social-networking market, according to Hitwise. But MySpace's efforts to run widget-makers off the site can only help Facebook, which historically has an older, more educated (and ad-appealing) audience.
Last week, PhotoBucket became the latest of Rupert's outlaws. The company, a photo- and video-sharing service, had its videos, remixes and slide shows blocked from MySpace. Why? PhotoBucket users were displaying slideshow widgets containing a Spiderman 3 ad.
A MySpace spokesperson explained that the company makes a big distinction between promotion (as in pushing your indie band) and advertising (as in posting slideshows skinned with a promo for a major motion picture from Sony, a Fox competitor). Such advertising is verboten by MySpace -- as is any instance in which users get paid topost something. Consider, for instance, Indie911's Hoooka widgets,which give posters 10 percent of each sale.
Alex Walsh, co-founder of PhotoBucket, says MySpace is turning its back on the approach that made it a hit. "By limiting your ability to personalize pages with content from any source, MySpace is contradicting the very belief of personal and social media."
MySpace's policy of blocking commercial content makes some degree of sense. But the companies that make the widgets for users to embed on MySpace are businesses, too. In the absence of hard-and-fast rules, any widget could potentially be classified as "commercial," and thus in violation of MySpace's terms of service. After all, what company makes a widget specifically to lose money? MySpace's recently updated terms of service essentially give the company the right to ban any widget or user at any time, at its sole discretion.
Of course, Facebook isn't likely to allow all types of widgets onto its site, either. But if the site starts out with clear rules about which types of widgets are allowed, developers and users could find it a more trustworthy, stable platform than MySpace.
If its policy toward outside content is changing, MySpace needs to post clearer guidelines rather than dealing with widgets and users on a case-by-case basis. If the sand keeps shifting under the feet of MySpace users and the developers who love them, both parties could eventually head to firmer ground. Rupert could find himself sheriff of a ghost town.
My prediction: MySpace is over. If it's going to start being run like a business it's going to go the way of Tripod and Angelfire. Does anyone even remember those?
I've never really liked MySpace anyhow, but this article caught my eye.