MySpace frees your data. Will Facebook follow?

When you put data into a social network, you ought to be able to easily pull it out, too.


Farhad Manjoo
May 9, 2008 8:06PM (UTC)

Among the tech set, Facebook's the social network that gets all the love. It's Facebook that allowed outside developers to create applications on the site, Facebook that's hiring off all the execs from Google, and Facebook that gets profiled by the likes of "60 Minutes."

And yet it's MySpace, still the world's largest social network, that has recently been acting like the Internet-ethics nerd. And I mean that in the best way: On Thursday MySpace announced Data Availability, a project that will let users move their data to sites across the Web.

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This is a long-standing Web community request, not to mention a hobbyhorse of mine. When you put your data -- a list of your favorite movies, of your friends, your relationship status, all of life's coordinates -- into a Web app, there ought to be a way for you to easily, automatically move that stuff around to other places. After all, it's your data -- what right does Facebook have to tell you what you can do with it?

MySpace is allowing just that. Users will be able to choose among other sites -- Yahoo, eBay, Photobucket and Twitter for now -- that they'd like to connect with their MySpace data. If you connect to Yahoo, for instance, then anything you change on MySpace will be reflected at Yahoo, too.

Facebook has been much more reluctant to allow other sites access to your data (with your permission). In a famous flap a few months ago, tech-blog wag Robert Scoble tested out a script to copy his Facebook contacts to the online address book Plaxo, only to have Facebook temporarily suspend his account.

Chris DeWolfe, MySpace's CEO, told reporters yesterday that the new project "is open to any site out there that wants to work with us, so we're happy to work with Facebook if they want to join up with us on this project."

Let's hope they will. Facebook's unofficial mission is to build the world's social graph -- to map out all the connections between human beings on the planet. To do so, the company will need a lot of our data. The least we can expect in return is some control over it.


Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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