Facebook is No Friend of Google's

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-05-16 Print this article Print


Okay, so I can't help but harp on Facebook's affront of Google over the Friend Connect service.

Never mind the he-said, she-said BS, but one of the parts I didn't cover adequately in my first  go-round for eWEEK is how Facebook tried to come off as a company that is earnest about data portability. 

To stress that Facebook really, really wants to play nice with Google, or, perhaps more appropriately, that Facebook really, really wants Google to bow to its will, Facebook engineer Charlie Cheever said that Facebook "reached out to Google several times about this issue and hopes to work with them to enable users to share their data exactly when and where they choose."

So, the meat for Facebook is: We want to work with Google to help them see the error of their ways.

That faux olive branch is as much a stroke of PR genius as it rings false. It was only three full days from the availability of the Friend Connect preview until Cheever posted the blog post; just how often did Facebook e-mail or call the Friend Connect folks without seeming crazy?

Or was it more like one phoner and one e-mail or even a text message or IM? By saying that it tried to contact Google several times to work with Google (and implying that Google didn't answer the door), Facebook is stridently working to look like the good guy.

Unfortunately, banning users or services from social sites tends to be met with great pooh-poohing even if the justification is rooted in privacy. Remember what happened to blogger Robert Scoble when he used a piece of Plaxo software to pull data from Facebook? He was unceremoniously dumped, and Facebook looked like a bunch of lame-os.

Jesse from 20 bits makes a great point about Facebook coming off like Microsoft, noting that "crippling your competitor in anticipation is a play right out of the Microsoft platform handbook."

Indeed, it makes me wonder whether, in taking $240 million from Microsoft last year, Facebook felt like it needed to go against Google to keep the search vendor from getting ahead. Or perhaps CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer discussed the matter and came to the same conclusion: that Google must be stopped from Internet dominance.

Facebook's Cheever noted in his blog post: "We think MySpace's Data Availability, Google Friend Connect and Facebook Connect can be part of a great movement in the industry to give users a better and safer experience online, while respecting user privacy. We look forward to working with our developer community and everyone else in the industry to help all of our users take their information, and their privacy, with them wherever they go."

But as TechCrunch points out, all evidence points to the contrary. What do you think? As an alleged data portability supporter, is Facebook turning its back on a friend justified?

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