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Facebook: we are "helping you" by blocking rival social apps

Software & AppsNews
by Chloe Albanesius, 28 Jan 2013News
Facebook: we are "helping you" by blocking rival social apps

Facebook doesn't take too kindly to apps that tap into its network but don't give back. In the wake of apps like Vine and Wonder having their access to the social network revoked, Facebook today clarified how its platform policies work.

Without specifically addressing Vine or Wonder, Facebook's Justin Osofsky wrote in a blog post that the "vast majority" of Facebook app developers are not in violation of Facebook's policies. "Keep doing what you're doing," he said.

A "much smaller number of apps," however, are just using Facebook to "either replicate our functionality or bootstrap their growth in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook."

As a result, Facebook has updated one section of its platform policies to specify that apps connecting to Facebook must let users "easily share their experiences back with people on Facebook." The app also cannot mimic Facebook or use its data without permission.

Old wording:

Competing social networks: (a) You may not use Facebook Platform to export user data into a competing social network without our permission.

New wording:

Reciprocity and Replicating core functionality: (a) Reciprocity: Facebook Platform enables developers to build personalized, social experiences via the Graph API and related APIs. If you use any Facebook APIs to build personalized or social experiences, you must also enable people to easily share their experiences back with people on Facebook. (b) Replicating core functionality: You may not use Facebook Platform to promote, or to export user data to, a product or service that replicates a core Facebook product or service without our permission.

"We are committed to helping you build great apps with Facebook, and will continue to invest in products that help you succeed while creating a healthy ecosystem," Osofsky concluded.

The move is the latest in the battle of Facebook vs. Twitter. Of the recently blocked apps - which also includes push-to-talk app Voxer - Vine is owned by Twitter, while Twitter and Wonder creator Yandex signed a deal last year that let Yandex display public tweets in its search results.

The Vine app, which lets users create GIF-like, six-second videos, allows users (in theory) to tap into Facebook to find friends and share their Vines. Facebook blocked access to Vine shortly after its Thursday debut; Twitter access also went down temporarily, too. By day's end, Vine tweeted that it had "restored sharing to Twitter and Facebook," but attemps to link to Facebook were soon throwing up errors on the app again.

Prior to the block, Vine allowed users to share their videos to Facebook, but Facebook users couldn't watch Vine videos on Facebook.com. Sharing to Facebook produced a preview of the Vine on the user's profile; clicking it brought people to Vine's website. Ultimately, Facebook doesn't really want its users leaving the confines of its social network, so this likely didn't sit well. If people were able to watch Vines directly from the news feed or someone's profile, that would likely fix the problem.

The same thing, meanwhile, happened to Yandex's Wonder app. As of now, any new users trying to sign up to Wonder via Facebook receive an error message. "We are in touch with Facebook to enquire about the reasons for this and what can be done to solve this problem," a Yandex spokesman said today.

Wonder is essentially a search engine with a focus on places, music, and news, tapping into Facebook for some of its results. Given that Facebook just launched its own search product - Graph Search - it's likely not too eager to hand its data over to a rival app that doesn't provide much in return.

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