Wednesday announcements from Twitter and MySpace further indicated that social networking is now part of mainstream computing.
At LeWeb, the European Internet event held in Paris, Twitter announced that it is opening up its data stream to all developers.
Meanwhile, MySpace, which lags behind Facebook in the social networking scene, has released free application programming interfaces (APIs) and launched an application developer contest.
Twittering Toward a Pot o’Gold
At LeWeb, Ryan Sarver, Twitter’s director of platforms, announced that the miniblogging site will make what he called its “fire hose” of data available to all developers in 2010. There are about 50,000 apps built around Twitter, Sarver said.
Twitdom, a database of Twitter apps, lists more than 1,360 of these. They include Twixxo, FamousChatter and LocalBizTweet.
Currently, Twitter offers its data to Microsoft, which integrates the microblogging service into Bing Maps; and Google, which includes Twitter in its real-time search capabilities.
However, chances are that the opening up of Twitter’s data stream to all developers won’t impact its dealings with Microsoft and Google. “If the contracts with Microsoft and Google had any exclusivity clauses, then they have reason to be annoyed,” Nick Dalton, chief technology officer at Pervasent, told TechNewsWorld. “I seriously doubt that Twitter would agree to any exclusive terms, and it’s not like Microsoft and Google can go to anyone else to get this data,” he pointed out.
“Twitter wants to become the platform that consumers use to digitally communicate to anyone else on the planet,” said Carl Howe, director of anywhere consumer research at the Yankee Group. “To do that, they have to get everyone to use Twitter. More developers means more applications, and more applications mean more usage.”
Twitter’s opening up to all application developers will probably boost its value as a company by further entrenching it as the provider of real-time data, Dalton said.
Twitter will also create a new Web site for developers and that it will, in essence, enhance security — it will reward developers for moving from Basic Auth to OAuth.
Basic Auth requires users to provide their usernames and passwords when making a request. OAuth, which is an open protocol, does not.
The move appears to be part of Twitter’s attempts to beef up security in the wake of several well-publicized hacks over the past few months. “Incentives to get developers to use OAuth instead of Basic Authentication are to move to a system that is more accountable and scalable,” the Yankee Group’s Howe told TechNewsWorld. “OAuth allows developers to make mashups of mashups without security problems; Basic Authentication was a much more simple client-server model.”
With these announcements, Twitter appears to be trying to make good on its promise to monetize. Observers have frequently expressed doubts that it could do so. “Twitter’s trying to harness the network effect while it has people’s attention,” Howe said. “Those 15 minutes of fame are fleeting.”
MySpace Woos App Devs
Also on Wednesday, MySpace unveiled new APIs aimed at socializing content on and off its site. These APIs are available for free, chief operating officer Mike Jones announced.
One of the new APIs is a Real-Time Stream API. This lets users push the MySpace activity stream to third-party sites in real time. Google and OneRiot are implementing this API, Jones said. Developers have access to public data about status updates, comments, birthdays, photos, videos, events, music, friend graph updates and blogs. The API includes granular filters to control the amount of data displayed.
Another is an Open Search API. This lets third-party sites include public MySpace profile information in search results, similar to what Google’s real-time search is doing with public Facebook profile information. Users can search for people by name, profile type or email address. They can filter search results by gender, age and location.
MySpace has also released an updated version of “Post to/Share on MySpace.” This lets MySpace users share content from third-party sites with their friends.
MySpace has also announced a developer contest that requires participants to develop new MySpace apps or integrate its APIs on their Web sites. Categories include the most innovative use of the real-time stream API, the most innovative use of the open search API, and the most innovative MySpace integration on mobile.
What’s MySpace All About Now?
MySpace’s moves are designed to build a strong ecosystem. “Providing an ecosystem for developers is the name of the game,” Pervasent’s Dalton explained. “Microsoft proved this with Windows, and today, Apple and Facebook are best at executing on this. If MySpace wants to remain relevant, they need to get into the game.”
However, MySpace’s efforts may not help improve its position against Facebook or Twitter. “MySpace is trying to keep up in a mindshare war that Facebook and Twitter are fighting,” explained the Yankee Group’s Howe. “From where I sit, it doesn’t appear to be a threat to either of the main combatants.”
Both Facebook and Twitter have become must-haves for forward-thinking enterprises, many of which integrate these apps into their IT infrastructure. That’s being partly driven by software vendors. For example, IBM and Salesforce.com integrate both Facebook and Twitter into their apps.
It’s not likely that MySpace will ever crack the business market or improve its position against the competition, Pervasent’s Dalton said. “Developers of social network apps and music-related apps are likely to make use of the new MySpace API,” he explained. “If that’s the definition of success, then yes they will succeed. If the definition of success is to overtake Facebook, then the answer is clearly no.”