Googles Long-Running Feud with Facebook: The Rancor Escalates

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Googles Long-Running Feud with Facebook: The Rancor Escalates

by Clint Boulton

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In November 2007, Google unveiled its OpenSocial effort with the expectation that Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook and other socially inclined Web service providers would use the application programming interfaces to allow programmers to write social applications that would work on LinkedIn, Friendster and other social networking sites. Facebook was noncommittal early on, taking a wait-and-see approach.

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Facebook Shuns OpenSocial

Facebook in March 2008 declined to join the OpenSocial Foundation formed by Google, Yahoo and MySpace. This was the company's strongest sign that it was at odds with the efforts of its rivals. Facebook said, "The company will continue to evaluate partnership opportunities that will benefit the 300,000 Facebook Platform developers while improving the Facebook user experience." In other words, Facebook will keep its social networking platform focused on those who use and develop for it.

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Friend Connect

Google in May 2008 followed OpenSocial with its Friend Connect social widget service, inviting Facebook and anyone else to join.

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Facebook engineer Charlie Cheever said in a May 15, 2008, blog post that after testing Friend Connect, Facebook found that it redistributes user information from Facebook to other developers without users' knowledge, which is a gross violation of the company's privacy rules. Taken Facebook's rebuke of OpenSocial and Friend Connect together, it's clear the company had no love for Google, which it clearly distrusts.

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Hearing the grumblings that Google wanted to quash the social network after its polite rebukes, Facebook would go on to lure several Google employees away from Google. Justin Rosenstein, Ben Ling and Gideon Yu were among the first to join Facebook from Google in 2007. But Facebook revved up its poaching engine in 2008, hiring Google ad queen Sheryl Sandberg as COO, Elliot Schrage for PR and several others. Facebook's latest grab was Google Maps and Wave creator Lars Rasmussen.

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Data Deals

Google's disdain for Facebook never waned, while Facebook ramped up its efforts to compete with Google. It struck API deals with Microsoft and Yahoo, allowing Hotmail and Yahoo Mail users to import their Facebook contacts. It struck no such deal with Google for Gmail. But things are heating up again in 2010.

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About Schmidt

Do you need proof that Google is burning for Facebook's data? Google CEO Eric Schmidt publicly told the media in September: "The best thing that would happen is for Facebook to open up its data. Failing that, there are other ways to get that information."

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Cozy with Bing

Facebook in October ratcheted up its partnership with Bing by providing integrated Facebook social profile data and offering users Liked Results.

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Zuck Slaps Google

Rarely one to engage in public displays of antagonism versus competitors, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Nov. 3 described Google as "obnoxious" for poaching a developer who was building Facebook for Android. We should take pains to remind Zuck that he and Sandberg stole hundreds of Google employees. Here is Zuck with Sandberg, his crown jewel.

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Google Tweaks Contacts API

Finally, Google has enough and shuts out Facebook from automatically letting users populate their Facebook accounts with their Gmail contacts. See the revised TOS clause 5.8 in this picture. "It's important that when we automate the transfer of contacts to another service, users have some certainty that the new service meets a baseline standard of data portability. We hope that reciprocity will be an important step toward creating a world of true data liberation—and that this move will encourage other Websites to allow users to automate the export of their contacts as well." Facebook is surprisingly quiet, though the company answered Google in actions. The social network used Google's own export feature to upload that TOS file directly to Facebook. Google is not happy about this. More as this war escalates.

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