By Caroline McCarthy
October 26, 2009
Sound the alarms! The U.K.'s Telegraph news outlet has a story that seems to prove the unthinkable: that onetime social-networking rivals Facebook and MySpace could actually be working on some kind of partnership.
Two years ago this would've been a huge deal. Now? I'm really not surprised.
"The move could potentially see MySpace music and video footage being shared on Facebook via its Connect platform, which allows people to log into third-party sites using their Facebook ID," the article by Emma Barnett explains.
It then quotes Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg as saying that "we would like to have (MySpace's) content, as we already do with many other sites, shared across our network because it is good for our users" and that "we are open to working with MySpace and are in talks with them at the moment."
MySpaces CEO Owen Van Natta, who used to have a similar role at Facebook to the one that Sandberg does now, is likewise quoted as saying "we are in talks with Facebook, and other sites, about how we could partner with them."
See, here's the deal. Sandberg and Van Natta are quoted in pretty ambiguous terms. But any third-party company on the Web is at liberty to implement Facebook's log-in standard with the Facebook Connect API: over 15,000 sites had, at last count. The catch with MySpace is that both sites are so large, they'd naturally be in some kind of talks about it simply to handle infrastructure issues (and likely more). The Huffington Post, for example, struck a deal with Facebook to power its "Social News" feature with Facebook Connect rather than just to chuck in some Facebook Connect code.
Partnering with Facebook is actually excellent positioning for MySpace, because the News Corp.-owned social site has been attempting to differentiate itself from pure social networking: a game that Facebook has clearly won. By hinting that it could strike a deal with Facebook, MySpace is putting out a major "we're different" message as it tries to establish itself as a pop culture hub. Facebook's the one providing the platform for the content; MySpace is the one providing the content itself.
For Facebook, meanwhile, you could take this as a "look, we've won" move. After all, it's a validation of the power of the social network's content platform that a company like MySpace--which used to dwarf Facebook in size--would want to use it for distribution.