When Facebook opened its back-end to outside applications in early spring, it gave users the power to act on preferences for how they'd like to interact with others.
Suddenly, you didn't have to wait until Facebook felt like offering you a functionality; you could just code one up yourself and disseminate it.
MySpace also gives users a freedom they don't have on that other site: they can "pimp out" their profiles. Some, like Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, don't even look like MySpace pages. For this reason, MySpace can be thought of as a personal Web publishing tool for those advertising either themselves or a product. Many do both.
Spacelift, a new Facebook app, suggests there's a bigger difference between MySpace and Facebook.
Spacelift enables users to import their MySpace profiles onto Facebook so they don't have to deal with the MySpace interface. (Check out before and after shots of a transitioning profile on Mashable.)
What once may have been written off as a "lifestyle preference" -- your love of a pink background versus a green one, and that MySpace lets you exercise that preference while Facebook does not -- may betray the reason why Facebook is increasingly the preferred site for social networking.
MarketingVox notes Spacelift could inspire "[others] that move regularly between MySpace and Facebook [...] to leave one in complete favor of the other."
That's a scary statement. The question is, why would users on the fence actually leave MySpace for Facebook? Don't they want access to a profile page that lets them be as individual as possible?
For one, the sheer simplicity of Facebook's design probably works in its favor. While MySpace may still boast the largest number of users, last April Facebook grew 106 percent to MySpace's 70 percent.
And in the UK, Facebook has already overtaken MySpace in terms of Internet searches.
The advent of Spacelift, however, suggests to me that maybe we've been comparing apples to oranges all this time. The users leaving MySpace for Facebook are probably not the same ones that significantly manipulate their MySpace pages, then use those pages to generate sales or draw attention.
Because that's another difference: you can't look at a Facebook profile unless you're part of a user's network, or already friends with that user. It's a walled garden. MySpace, on the other hand, gives you the option to make your profile visible to non-MySpace users.
Facebook's decision to keep a tight grip on its form, while letting users experiment with its functions, is a formula that forces users to focus less on the appearance of their profile pages and think more about collaborative opportunities.
If you're a social networking site, that's what you want: for users to interact with one another on your platform. This keeps them coming back.
That MySpace users spend less time networking than self-promoting may mean it's less a social networking site than a personal publishing tool. And if that's the case, this puts it in a completely different competitive realm.
Maybe in the future we'll be holding MySpace up to blog/community hybrid sites like Xanga or LiveJournal.
Originally published on CMSWire.com.