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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

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March 14, 2008 2:15 PM

MySpace goodies coming to WSJ, CTO says

Posted by Brier Dudley

I just had an interesting chat with MySpace CTO Aber Whitcomb, a Bellingham native and University of Washington alum who is in town for a DevJam developer event Saturday.

After talking about the MySpace Seattle office, which is growing like crazy, we got into ways the company's technology could help other News Corp. properties, like Hulu and the Wall Street Journal.

Will the Wall Street Journal site incorporate MySpace social networking technology? "Probably," Whitcomb said.

Sooner rather than later, MySpace is going to make available user data the Journal and other sites can take advantage of via new APIs, he said.

I didn't think there would be much user overlap besides Eliot Spitzer, but the 110 million MySpacers have to be tempting to the Journal. Also, the Journal's site is getting snappier, with more flash and pop culture, and MySpace's demographics are also changing. Whitcomb said its fastest-growing segment of users is in the mid-30s.

MySpace has scale, networking and communication services its sibling sites lack, but it isn't turning into a services platform for other News Corp. properties. Whitcomb said his primary focus is on serving users with new features, improvements to the front end and additions such as a site optimized for mobile devices. But he does meet regularly with the other sites' CTOs and by year-end, the Journal could be taking advantage of MySpace's data portability and availability initiatives.

"We're very happy to share with other properties as well,'' he said.

MySpace opened its Seattle office, on Western Avenue near the ferry terminal, a year ago as a pilot project to see if it could expand its technical team through satellite facilities. It started out by hiring Wilf Russell, a veteran of Microsoft and various startups, as an executive director to run the place.

The office now has about 60 people and plans to hire another 60 over the next year. Whitcomb said it will then look for another office, perhaps on the Eastside, to continue the growth.

"We'll keep that trajectory going,'' he said.

MySpace may also locate a datacenter, for disaster recovery, in the south end.

Three months ago it opened a second satellite engineering office in San Francisco, where it now has 25 people. The company also has offices in London and Australia with about 10 people each, and offices in Japan and China with about 50 each.

Next it may add engineering offices in Texas and Virginia.

Altogether the Los Angeles-based company has 1,200 employees, including 500 technologists managed by Whitcomb. He works there, along with another UW alum -- co-founder Chris DeWolfe.

About 45 companies are participating in the DevJam event at the Seattle offices Saturday.

Whitcomb bristled when I asked about efforts to take developer mindshare from Facebook.

"Actually, MySpace was the original developer platform,'' he said, and a spokeswoman injected that it has 5,000 developers.

Whitcomb said the new MySpace developer tools are the "formalization" of the platform that's been there all along.

Doesn't Facebook have more traction now with developers?

"Part of that is the perception of the media; we've had developers for years,'' he said.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.