MySpace is Getting a Little Testy

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There was a mysterious outage on MySpace this morning. It lasted just 2.5 hours, and the site itself performed mostly as it should. All that happened was this: Anyone trying to add a Flash widget to the site, or show an image via an inserted link, or otherwise embed any sort of code, couldn’t do it. Existing widgets worked fine, but none could be added. And if a MySpace user edited their page, any existing embedded code produced an error.

So far, MySpace hasn’t returned our request for a comment on exactly why this happened. But executives at some of the countless startups that are building their businesses on the back of MySpace, now the largest Internet site, in the hope of a YouTube-like success sure are talking. All off the record, of course. A common comment is “I don’t want MySpace to single us out.”

What they’re saying is that MySpace just made its first move in an upcoming big stakes game of “chicken,” and that a senior exec there is making a career-defining bet that everyone else will blink first. MySpace is still prickly over the YouTube acquisition (they wanted it), and rumors are that they weren’t happy that PhotoBucket didn’t ping them about an acquisition before taking their last round of financing, either. Perhaps the recent $20 million Slide funding was one straw too many. All of these companies rely heavily (understatement) on getting their content onto MySpace user pages.

People have been predicting this for some time, but until now MySpace hasn’t taken any drastic steps to cut these services off. Today may have been a test to see how easily they could cut these widgets out, and to see how people would react. Or, it could have just been a bug.

If MySpace does start to permanently ban widgets and other embedded code, they’ll almost certainly say it is for security reasons. But they’ll continue to push their own competing services, and allow only “certified” partners back in. And my bet is that the certification process may have a fee involved.

Update: MySpace is now unofficially telling affected companies that this was a “developer error” and not intentional.

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