The main tool for MySpace members will be a control panel where they'll be able to manage their "data availability" parameters. The granularity of the controls in this panel will increase over time. Meanwhile, MySpace will also release client-side and server-side tools based on open standards for third-party Web sites that want to participate.
Part of the initiative includes MySpace's joining of the DataPortability Workgroup. Data availability is MySpace's first step toward embracing all aspects of data portability, said Jim Benedetto, MySpace's senior vice president of technology.
Another major step would be for MySpace to allow members to bring in data and content that they have entered into other sites, making the exchange bidirectional, said MySpace Senior Vice President of Product Strategy Steve Pearman in an interview after the press conference.
"To the extent that other sites follow the path of data availability, giving users a very clean way to both share and control what's shared, it's all for the good. The more open we can all be, it's an all-boats-rise scenario, and it's just good for the social Web generally," he added.
While data portability is probably more resonant among tech-savvy users, regular users will recognize and appreciate its usefulness, he said.
"The announcement today helps move data portability into the future, because a regular user will think about this from an application perspective rather than a theory perspective. If you put an application in their hands that shows how fun, helpful and powerful this type of technology can be, it helps move us all forward into what the industry generally sees as a really good direction," Pearman said.
Asked whether MySpace was concerned that making its data portable might loosen its grip on its users, Pearman said the opposite would be true. "The time of walled gardens is behind us all," he said. "The Internet will always be a competitive market, and if a time comes for users to pick, we think they'll pick us, because the more we can do to make [their overall Web experience] enriching, the more likely folks will continue to be passionate about MySpace."
Asked whether Facebook would be welcome to participate in this initiative, DeWolfe said that the rival social network would indeed be able to participate, as well as any other site on the Web that's interested.