Last week, MySpace announced Data Availability, their contribution to the
data portability movement. Back in May, MySpace made the announcement that they were making user data available to Yahoo, ebay and Twitter. Now they’ve opened up to developers.
After using oAuth to authenticate a user and retrieve an authorized
Access Token and Token Secret, the API allows third party developers
access to the following MySpace data:
In addition, the API allows developers access to the user’s friends through a simple GET request:
The response will only return the ID of the user’s friends.
After announcing MySpace Data Availability, the good people at TechCrunch threw an application together to demonstrate how it works:
Step One: Go to the app and click a link to install the application in MySpace.
Step Two: On MySpace, confirm that you’d like to give the application access to your MySpace data.
Step Three: You’re now redirected back to the TechCrunch app, which can now display your MySpace profile data information.
Even though developers can now display users’ MySpace data on their
sites, that doesn’t mean they can actually do anything with the data.
In fact, MySpace forbids storing or caching any of the user
information. So aside from displaying what’s already at MySpace, Data
Availability isn’t particularly useful unless the developer can do
on-the-fly data analysis in order to present something based on what
they’ve learned from the user data. Which is, you know, not easy.
What Does This Mean To Data Portability?
Data Availability sure sounds like Data Portability, doesn’t it? And
it’s certainly allowing data to leave the silo that is MySpace. Due to
the fact that 3rd party developers cannot store or save data, each page
load synchs with the mothership, guaranteeing up-to-date information.
But then again, it’s just a display. A one-way road from MySpace to
display somewhere else. Users can’t edit their MySpace information on
another site, and nothing about it is bidirectional.
So is Data Availability a step forward for the Data Portability
movement? Is it a step backward? To me, it’s a step. When it comes to
true data portability, it helps to be patient. Until recently the
thought of allowing another site to access your profile data was
absurd. Back in the walled-garden days, independent silos with
redundant profile data were the rule. With Data Availability, a giant
in social networking has decided to open the gate a little bit. That’s
a very good thing.
Talking this over with Trent Adams, the founder of matchmine and an active contributor to the DataPortability Project, he pointed out what might be helpful as next steps:
“The move by MySpace into the world of data portability with their Data Availability initiative is a great baby step. Without
something like what Drummond Reed and his XDI compatriots are cooking
up, though, it’s going to be hard to take bigger steps. Specifically, the concepts of identity, data, and control cry out for what’re termed link contracts.”
It’s impossible for me to believe that we’re going to go from
nothing to everything. I don’t think Facebook will put out a press
release tomorrow announcing an API to let any developer create apps to
both read, store, and write to any part of a Facebook profile. It’s
just not going to happen. When it comes to data portability, iteration
is the name of the game. Give developers a little bit of access and see
what happens. Then, little by little, give more access.