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iMeem co-founder accuses Facebook of 'intimidation tactics'

Facebook is on increasingly shaky ground in the public eye, with a series of misfires that are unlikely to shore up any goodwill for the social network and its top dog Mark Zuckerberg.

First, Switzerland’s largest bank revealed it lost $356 million(£229 million) thanks to Facebook’s “mishandled” IPO. Next, a New York start-up laid an accusation that 80 per cent of ad clicks on the social network were served to bots. Now, noted Silicon Valley developer Dalton Caldwell has come forth with a claim that Facebook regularly engages in “intimidation-based negotiation tactics” with developers of third-party apps.

Though Zuckerberg has said he would like the social network to be fertile ground for third-party developers, Caldwell’s accusation, detailed in an open letter addressed to the Facebook chief, tells a contradictory tale.

The developer, who is best known for having co-founded iMeem and PicPlz, says he met with Facebook executives about interest in an iOS app and service he built for the Facebook platform. But the meeting took a sour turn when the execs told him his product, a “real-time social service where users and developers come first, not advertisers,” would mean too much competition for the social media giant’s own App Center.

“The execs in the room made clear that the success of my product would be an impediment to your ad revenue financial goals,” Caldwell wrote.

He was, in essence, given two options: be hired by Facebook to work on developing App Center or face having his platform destroyed.

“Mark, I know for a fact that my experience was not an isolated incident. Several other startup founders & Facebook employees have told me that what I experienced was part of a systematic M&A ‘formula’,” he wrote.

“Your team doesn’t seem to understand that being ‘good negotiators’ vs implying that you will destroy someone’s business built on your ‘open platform’ are not the same thing...Bad-faith negotiations are inexcusable, and I didn’t want to believe your company would stoop this low. My mistake,” he added.

Caldwell goes on to clarify that he thinks the problem lies in the company’s business model and corporate culture.

“I don’t think you or your employees are bad people. I just think you constructed a business that has financial motivations that are not in-line with users & developers,” he writes, comparing Facebook’s ad revenue-driven bottom line to that of Twitter.

Facebook has not commented on the accusation. And while Caldwell’s claims about his specific experience with Facebook executives have not been verified, the developer raises an interesting point about the possibility of a future wherein advertiser interests continue to trump those of developers and, consequently, users.