April 11, 2007
The ubiquitous Michael Arrington reported last night that MySpace has begun blocking Photobucket widgets from being used on MySpace pages. Interesting timing, to say the least, given the widely reported rumors of Photobucket looking to be sold. Although initially there was confusion whether this was a deliberate move or a so-called bug, from what I can tell it seems to be coming out that this was a deliberate policy decision by MySpace.
The reactions are falling into two camps. Not surprisingly, the most vocal camp argues that MySpace’s move is “so NOT web 2.0” and ultimately will be be the social network’s demise. (The comments to Arrington’s post are chock full of this sentiment). Robert Scoble does a somewhat more thoughtful job taking the opposite side, arguing that sites that profit off the work (and audience) of successful audience aggregators are “parasites,” that it is entirely appropriate for free services like MySpace to block parasites like these, and that, if individual users want to be able to use them, they should be willing to go to the trouble of hosting their own blog instead of using free blog hosting services.
I am not sure just yet where I come out on this one. It is not a simple issue. There are some good arguments why a free hosting service might want to control which 3d party widgets/gadgets it enables, ranging from security to spam to business model. On the other hand, these services will need to be pretty careful not to alienate their users by categorically shutting out stuff that is quite popular with its user community. Especially in the Web 2.0 world we live in, passionately happy users are the single most important business asset from both an offensive and defensive perspective.
A fair amount lies in the balance here, and how the various services like MySpace, WordPress, Facebook, etc., navigate this question will impact the balance of power in the Web 2.0 ecosystem. We should all be watching this one closely.