Widgets aren’t welcome in TheirSpace

The NYT has the story about a popular blogger, Ms. Tequila, who was apparently contacted personally by MySpace’s founder, Tom Anderson, explaining to her why she can’t use widgets on her page in order to let visitors listen to her music and play the accompanying videos.

MySpace says that it will block these pieces of third-party software — also called widgets — when they lend themselves to violations of its terms of service, like the spread of pornography or copyrighted material. But it also objects to widgets that enable users to sell items or advertise without authorization, or without entering into a direct partnership with the company.

The naïve will ask why should it be a violation of the “terms of service” to use the software of indie911, an LA-based start-up company, to offer one’s OWN music and show one’s OWN clips? Is it just like copyright infringement or the spread of pornography, therefore “not appropriate for MySpace”?

But we’re not naïve, right? Widgets developers are often small start-ups that need exposure in order to gain popularity and grow commercially. Ms. Tequila’s space, with 1.7 million(!) friends, is so popular that the music and videos were accessed 20,000 times over the weekend before the widget was removed (apparently by Ms. Tequila herself). It is free publicity for indie911, so it shouldn’t pass, so MySpace. Such things have to be “authorized,” which is another word for creating a licensing platform to bind developers into “partnerships” with MySpace. What did Ms. Tequila, the real celebrity in the story, have to say about the episode?

The reason why I am so bummed out about MySpace now is because recently they have been cutting down our freedom and taking away our rights slowly … MySpace will now only allow you to use ‘MySpace’ things.

Well, the alternatives are one click away. And if they become more attractive for users (because they allow widgets, for example) it is not so sure that Google will continue to be willing to pay News Corp, the owner of MySpace, as much as 900 million over the next three years to serve ads to the site’s users. Which begs the question: Who's the free-rider here anyway?

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