MySpace today is announcing support for the OpenID identify platform. This means users of services that let you log in to them with OpenID will be able to use their MySpace credentials for the login. As TechCrunch pointed out, though, this appears to be a "land grab for user identities," since MySpace isn't allowing users to log in to MySpace with an OpenID account from another identity provider.
Jim Benedetto, MySpace VP Technology, says that he is not opposed to letting users login to MySpace from other OpenID parties. The current initiative, he says, "is step one." "We're looking at down the road becoming the relying party," (a site that recognizes other OpenID logins) he said.
All MySpace users will, by default, get OpenIDs when the project is turned on at some point in the near future. If they don't use the OpenID login from other sites, they will not notice any changes to their MySpace login experience.
The company is also announcing today that two implementations of its Data Availability program are going live. It's showing how profile data from MySpace can be imported into user accounts in Eventful and Flixter.
Data Availability is a powerful concept. It makes it possible to take your profile page and your social network created in MySpace, and push them into another service. Like MySpace's OpenID initiative, this project is part of MySpace's plan to become a hub of identity.
While these initiatives are powerful and important for MySpace, and are good for users, neither implementation is, yet, fully open, since they're both one way. As I said, MySpace is not yet allowing users to login to the service with OpenIDs obtained elsewhere, nor is it allowing Data Availability partners to write data into MySpace profiles. Benedetto told me, "It would be very beneficial to us to have data coming in," but that the company needs to take a phased approach to supporting data sharing. "We're stepping in to uncharted territory," he said. Previous sharing projects in the industry have failed, he said.
In the future, Benedetto says, the OpenID and Data Availability projects will merge. Users will be able to use their MySpace OpenID to access their profile and network, "even when they are not on MySpace." Supporting OpenId will allow users to "login to the long tail of the Internet" via MySpace. Data Availability could make their profiles ubiquitous.
Full and open synchronization with other identify platforms and social networks would be much more complex than the current initiatives, and would likely confuse users at first, but ultimately this is what users are going to want: Truly portable social network data. It's the only way users can end up owning their online identities.