MySpace VP Raps About OpenSocial, Developer Platform, and Open APIs

Jim Benedetto, MySpace's vice president of technology and one of MySpace's original architects, discusses the future of application development on social networks and the importance of open APIs.

By C.G. Lynch
Wed, June 04, 2008

CIOMySpace and Facebook have very different approaches to developing applications for social networks. After Facebook opened its platform to third-party developers in May 2007, an explosion of applications populated the Facebook directory. But there was a problem: many home pages became jammed with spam apps: applications with little usefulness that, in some cases, users didn't even ask to install. Facebook also required developers to use snippets of their proprietary code to run the application.

MySpace has taken a very different approach. Though it just opened its platform to developers this past February, the company's membership in OpenSocial—the Google-led APIs that allow developers to make their application work on multiple social networks—has increased the chances of those applications reaching more outlets on the Web.

CIO recently talked with Jim Benedetto, MySpace's vice president of technology and one of MySpace's original architects. He spoke about how the platform has progressed since its launch, and what he believes is the next frontier for social networks: data portability. He also gave his thoughts on the idea of having more social networking applications that help people do their jobs.

CIO:You launched the platform back in February. What has been the response from the developer community?

Benedetto: A large number of developers have embraced it, and have started using it to build their OpenSocial applications. We're at well over a thousand applications now. OpenSocial is learn once, write anywhere. So as soon as [developers] learn the open social spec, they can write applications for any platform, including ours.

CIO:How have the applications performed? How do you measure their success?

Benedetto: Some of the largest applications have over four million installs. But if you look at platforms historically over the last year, people have been analyzing the success of individual social platforms based on the number of installs that the applications get. They haven't concentrated on the overall utility of the application or the overall engagement of it.

We went a different direction, and we really had strict rules around exposing viral communication channels to individual applications. Other social platforms have given developers the ability to [instruct apps] to, with one click, send a message to 100 of [the user's] friends. That was thought of as a smart move early on because it enabled applications to get like a million installs in three days.

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