Twitter, Google Share Frustration over Facebook Data Hoarding

Twitter CEO Evan Williams said at the Web 2.0 Summit here Nov. 17 that he would like to work with Facebook on additional data exchange. Facebook is frosty to the idea.

News Analysis: Twitter would still like to work with Facebook despite the companies' failure to agree to an equal exchange of data, Twitter CEO Evan Williams said at the Web 2.0 Summit Nov. 17.

The Web services share a lot of the same users, so connecting them makes sense. At least, it makes sense for Twitter, which has 175 million users to Facebook's 500 million social networkers.

Twitter and Facebook do integrate, but the exchange is one way. Users can post tweets to Facebook, but can't publish Facebook status updates to Twitter.

"We're talking to them often to see if there is a way to work together, but so far neither side has found out a way to do that other than what we've done already," Williams said, acknowledging that he is frustrated with Facebook's reluctance to share the data.

"We'd like our users to tap into Facebook to make their Twitter experience better. But I understand their position. They see their social graph as their core asset, and they want to make sure there's a win-win relationship with anybody who accesses it,"

Williams' comment cut to the heart of Facebook's reticence to export certain types of data to other companies' Web services.

Facebook spent the earlier part of the month brow-beaten by Google and media for declining to allow the search engine's Gmail users to export their Facebook contact info to Gmail.

Again, the data exchange was one way, as Facebook users could export their Gmail contacts to populate their accounts on the social network. Frustrated, Google moved to block Facebook from doing this automatically.

In a dart thrown at Google, Facebook worked around the technical obstruction using Google's data export software. Summit host John Battelle asked both Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about this standoff, but neither provided satisfactory answers.

That's quite alright. Williams nailed it; Facebook's social graph is its raison d'etre. The company guards its user data like it's Fort Knox during a period of civil unrest.

As Williams noted, Facebook will share its data as long as it gets something out of such deals. Perhaps the onus is on Twitter to sweeten the pot.

Facebook appears to be even more protective of its data versus Google, a signal that the search engine is the ultimate threat to its cozy walled garden.

While the social network enables Yahoo and Microsoft Bing to export Facebook contact info to those companies' mail services, it does not extend the same courtesy to Google.

In this vein, Facebook and Google have more in common than people believe.

The social graph is Facebook's crown jewel just as search is Google's crown jewel. People have tried for a decade to get Google to share the secret sauce of its search algorithms to no avail.

Facebook cites privacy concerns; Google cites fears that people will use the algorithms to boost their placement on the search engine.

Both are valid reasons. Google has refused to bend. Will Facebook also hold the line?