FirstTake: The Web Strategist should watch –but wait– for the MySpace Developer Platform

(Left: I met and interviewed MySpace’s team Will and Jim)

I just got back from the brand spanking new SF MySpace office, an event tonight that was catered to the new developer platform which they announced today. This post isn’t aimed at developers, but at the Web Strategist (web decision maker) here’s what you need to know:

MySpace opens third party developer platform
MySpace announced a developer platform so third party developers can create applications on top of their existing commmunity. This is released on time, and is a competitive move to Facebook’s application platform. I’ve published stats and demographics about MySpace (and Facebook here). Over the next 30 days, developers will get to play in the ‘Sandbox’ (the theme for tonight’s party).

Here’s what to expect:
After watching this space, talking to MySpace techical staff, and talking to many developers at the event, here’s my predictions and insights.

1) MySpace builds strategic relationship with widget developer community
MySpace’s new SF office is a great foothold into Silicon Valley, in particular, to the widget developer community. Most of the widget network developers are located in this area, and by buidling relationships with them, there’s an opportunity they’ll launch their widgets on their container, fueling the next generation of MySpace. The schwag (pics below) really catered to the developer: a backpack full of shirts, flip video player, and a few toys for the beach. (for the sandbox)

2) Unlike Facebook, Developer and MySpace will partner and monetize
Unlike Facebook, it’s expected that developers will have direct access to monetize utilizing MySpace’s advertising tools. Although it wasn’t formally announced, expect hyper targeting, and other monetization opportunities to be available to developers.

3) MySpace respects Privacy
MySpace, a later adopter to this movement, let Facebook make it’s mistakes (newspage and Beacon) and will not suffer from the same issues. Expect Myspace to play it safe, and play it right, leaning on the mistakes from Facebook.

4) While not fully developed, expect platform to slowly evolve
It was very clear (I talked to many developers in the room) and they were all waiting to see what the platform was like, as very little was released, miany documentation. I asked during the Q&A session when all the APIs will be available, and they said “tonight…(looking over at colleagues) right?” Laughter from crowd erupted. There will be three APIs released each with different abilities. Also, applications can display in 5 different locations within MySpace, including a private area for the user to see the application without anyone else seeing it.

5) Widgets on MySpace react different than other Social Networks
Even if widgets can be easily ported over from Facebook to Myspace don’t expect them to work the same. Demographics (who they are), Psyhographics (their emotional drivers), and Technographics (how they use technology) will all be different. Expect very few of the successful applications in Facebook to perform the same way in MySpace.

6) MySpace, Facebook, and Bebo coexist
I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked “is Facebook a Myspace killer?” the answer is no, they are different tools from different audiences. They will coexist.

What it means:

Expect a lot of trial and error development to occur, this is really and experimentation stage for the next 3 months. The platform will ilkely have a lot of tweaking and expect a lot of experimentation from the developer community. In the long run, MySpace will be able to successfully monetize, developers will profit, and brands will start to get involved. Hopefully, the user experience will respect the wishes of the users, and it will be a win for all.

Recommendations to the Web Strategist
Unless you’re already a successful widget developer you should not engage, instead you should Wait and Watch, and see what applications work, and what won’t. Then, consider contacting those developer networks to rebrand successful applications, or go a step further and create interactive of social campaigns partnering with them, and lastly, developing your own widget.

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Update: Thanks Steve Ames for the assistance, he spotted a few errors in text, more from Justin Smith.