Mike Arrington is Right, Facebook is Wrong

Mike Arrington and I had a sometimes violent disagreement on today’s Gillmor Gang.

The reason we were arguing? Because we both were arguing different things.

Mike Arrington was arguing that Facebook was in the wrong for blocking Google Friend Connect (and therefor I was wrong).

I was arguing that if you 1. Friend me AND 2. Give me your email address that I should be able to put that email address into whatever system I so please, just like when you hand me your business card (and therefor that Arrington was wrong).

Problem is, that it took a bit of yelling and screaming for us to realize we were arguing about different things. During the show I put my phone on mute and took a shower (actually true) and when I came back on I took a different tactic and agreed with Mike on the first issue.

On the second issue he’s still wrong, but we’ll get to argue that one out again some other day.

Truth be told I thought that Google pulled email addresses into Friend Connect. I was wrong. Google doesn’t.

So, Facebook is totally over the top wrong to block Google.

But, lately, Facebook has been on the wrong side of the block button. Whoever runs that button is really hurting Facebook’s brand and not doing Facebook any favors.

So, let’s back up and split this argument into a few pieces and argue about those separately in three groups:

1. Your social graph (IE, the map of who your friends are).
2. Your friends’ info (IE, their email addresses, their birthdays, their relationship status, their political leanings, their gender, their favorite music and activities, and other stuff you’ll find on, say, Facebook’s profile).
3. Your actual data. Say your photos, your videos, your status updates, and your wall posts.

If you’re going to talk about social network portability you MUST keep these three things separate.

Why? Because of user expectations.

So, what are our user expectations around the social graph? Well, Facebook already makes those almost totally public. I can see the social graphs of people who haven’t even friended me. That said, there are a few people who’ve blocked me from seeing who their friends are, but only a handful of people have done that.

How about user expectations around your friends’ info? Well, if you friend me and give me access to your data, you should expect me to use that data, even outside of Facebook. But there are some users who don’t want you to take that data outside of Facebook. Arrington’s one of those.

How about your actual data? User expectations here are far different. We want to have control of our own data, and we don’t expect other users to be able to copy our photos or videos to other places.

So, basically, Mike Arrington and I agree on the social graph. You should be able to take your list of friends, their avatars, and their names to any other social network.

We disagree on our info like email addresses and such. I don’t think we’ll ever agree there.

I believe we agree on the control of our actual data.

How about you? Do you agree with this assessment? Do you get as passionate about this stuff as Mike and I did?

UPDATE: Marc Canter says “I do not compromise” and posted a bunch of pictures of his backyard fence which is most interesting.

128 thoughts on “Mike Arrington is Right, Facebook is Wrong

  1. I have just been disabled on facebook for as near as I can tell inviting to many friends. Can anyone help me get it back. Linda

  2. I have just been disabled on facebook for as near as I can tell inviting to many friends. Can anyone help me get it back. Linda

  3. There is reason that I don’t use my real name, or photo or post my email address…the people in my friend list know who I am…and if they want this information they can get it in a more private manner.

  4. There is reason that I don’t use my real name, or photo or post my email address…the people in my friend list know who I am…and if they want this information they can get it in a more private manner.

  5. @ Scoble: You are right, wrong, and right.

    1. Graph – of course this should be open, it is really just a list of the people I know. Why should facebook, or anyone else, be able to say I am allowed to be friends with someone on their site, but not somewhere else.

    2. Friends’ data – two points here.
    First, by friending you and putting my data on Facebook (or whatever other site) I am agreeing to allow you to “use” that data, but not make any of it public to other people… I friended you, not your other friends. Which leads to my second point.
    Second, by posting my information on a site that we connect on, it is assumed that I am familiar with how that site functions (i.e. my data is used), implicitly giving you permission to use it IN THAT WAY. However, if you take my personal data elsewhere, I may not know how it is being used and therefore have NOT given you permission to use it in other ways. (Plaxo’s spamming issues of the past being an example). *disclaimer – plaxo is much better now.

    3. Our actual data – hopefully this is a given. We should have control how of our content, only allowing it to be put where we want it. However, I believe once I have published content somewhere, I should be allowed to pull that content into other locations – do you agree?

    Ian
    ian-ellis.com

  6. @ Scoble: You are right, wrong, and right.

    1. Graph – of course this should be open, it is really just a list of the people I know. Why should facebook, or anyone else, be able to say I am allowed to be friends with someone on their site, but not somewhere else.

    2. Friends’ data – two points here.
    First, by friending you and putting my data on Facebook (or whatever other site) I am agreeing to allow you to “use” that data, but not make any of it public to other people… I friended you, not your other friends. Which leads to my second point.
    Second, by posting my information on a site that we connect on, it is assumed that I am familiar with how that site functions (i.e. my data is used), implicitly giving you permission to use it IN THAT WAY. However, if you take my personal data elsewhere, I may not know how it is being used and therefore have NOT given you permission to use it in other ways. (Plaxo’s spamming issues of the past being an example). *disclaimer – plaxo is much better now.

    3. Our actual data – hopefully this is a given. We should have control how of our content, only allowing it to be put where we want it. However, I believe once I have published content somewhere, I should be allowed to pull that content into other locations – do you agree?

    Ian
    ian-ellis.com

  7. Avatars need not be of the animated variety. We can have “proxy” avatars. Proxy avatars are actual people who have granted us either only Read privileges (Piggyback avatars) or Read and Write privileges (Poisoned avatars). Naturally, Poisoined avatars would be even more controversial than Piggyback avatars but only if all these are not declared. If a profile clearly states upfront whether it is Piggybacked or Poisoned or neither, it would not be so controversial. In fact, it might add to the fun if we suspect that the profile we are communicating with has one or more eavesdroppers or maybe even impersonators.

  8. Avatars need not be of the animated variety. We can have “proxy” avatars. Proxy avatars are actual people who have granted us either only Read privileges (Piggyback avatars) or Read and Write privileges (Poisoned avatars). Naturally, Poisoined avatars would be even more controversial than Piggyback avatars but only if all these are not declared. If a profile clearly states upfront whether it is Piggybacked or Poisoned or neither, it would not be so controversial. In fact, it might add to the fun if we suspect that the profile we are communicating with has one or more eavesdroppers or maybe even impersonators.

  9. Mike is 100% right…

    just because I let a girl hold my hand at the movies doesn’t mean I want to let her hold my hand at the pub with the boys, or after my football game, or when I’ll trying to court another girl.

    Friendships are contextual…just because I give you my email in facebook does not mean you can assume I will want you to have it in another social contex.

  10. Mike is 100% right…

    just because I let a girl hold my hand at the movies doesn’t mean I want to let her hold my hand at the pub with the boys, or after my football game, or when I’ll trying to court another girl.

    Friendships are contextual…just because I give you my email in facebook does not mean you can assume I will want you to have it in another social contex.

  11. You have managed to explain and dissected data portability into 3 key parts in your post. Thumbs up for Robert! =)

    Clearly, FaceBook is in the wrong.

  12. You have managed to explain and dissected data portability into 3 key parts in your post. Thumbs up for Robert! =)

    Clearly, FaceBook is in the wrong.

  13. Robert,

    How can you separate the social graph from email addresses (personal data) when the only key we can use to match up profiles across sites is email addresses? How could I import my social graph from Facebook into Orkut without giving Orkut access to my friends’ email addresses?

    Erik

  14. Robert,

    How can you separate the social graph from email addresses (personal data) when the only key we can use to match up profiles across sites is email addresses? How could I import my social graph from Facebook into Orkut without giving Orkut access to my friends’ email addresses?

    Erik

  15. @maxgladwell
    “From a strategic point of view, Facebook’s already lost this war (hard) – it’s just a matter of time until the dynamics inevitably play out.”

    The Net is like water at worst and grease at best. It WILL flow. It DOES need a container. Google is saying, we don’t need to contain it. FaceBook may be making the wrong container. But some container IS needed, for sure.

    @brad
    http://ideas.4brad.com/data-hosting-instead-data-portability

    Good Man Brad, have you nailed the issue or what? We need more of you around here.

    My take is on the issue of abstraction. We are playing with a dirty liquid using our bare hands. We THINK we would be able to soap it off later. Maybe we would, maybe we WON’T. There needs to be some sort of abstraction which allows us to dissociate ourselves from our avatar if things don’t pan out as planned. The problem is how to get all the benefits of networking without having to open up fully by having some sort of an “avatar” layer.

  16. @maxgladwell
    “From a strategic point of view, Facebook’s already lost this war (hard) – it’s just a matter of time until the dynamics inevitably play out.”

    The Net is like water at worst and grease at best. It WILL flow. It DOES need a container. Google is saying, we don’t need to contain it. FaceBook may be making the wrong container. But some container IS needed, for sure.

    @brad
    http://ideas.4brad.com/data-hosting-instead-data-portability

    Good Man Brad, have you nailed the issue or what? We need more of you around here.

    My take is on the issue of abstraction. We are playing with a dirty liquid using our bare hands. We THINK we would be able to soap it off later. Maybe we would, maybe we WON’T. There needs to be some sort of abstraction which allows us to dissociate ourselves from our avatar if things don’t pan out as planned. The problem is how to get all the benefits of networking without having to open up fully by having some sort of an “avatar” layer.

  17. Scoble, the sad thing is that 90% of Facebook users will never know anything about Facebook’s stubbornness and “walled garden” mentality. Frankly, they don’t really care. They just want to connect with their friends on Facebook. Even if you and your 24,000 Twitter followers boycotted Facebook, do you think Facebook would suffer? I would say it’s doubtful.

  18. Scoble, the sad thing is that 90% of Facebook users will never know anything about Facebook’s stubbornness and “walled garden” mentality. Frankly, they don’t really care. They just want to connect with their friends on Facebook. Even if you and your 24,000 Twitter followers boycotted Facebook, do you think Facebook would suffer? I would say it’s doubtful.

  19. Can we look at this via a libertarian persepctive which is – when you give someone your data, they are free to do whatever they want with it as long as it does not “hurt” you? Hurt can be simple as you gettting spam to something drastic as your privacy being violated.

  20. Can we look at this via a libertarian persepctive which is – when you give someone your data, they are free to do whatever they want with it as long as it does not “hurt” you? Hurt can be simple as you gettting spam to something drastic as your privacy being violated.

  21. I felt that Michael was rude and disrespectful towards you, Robert, and that you got played into his sensationalist leanings. After he couldn’t pick a fight with Blaine Cook a day earlier, and revealed his shocking lack of understanding of the very development team leader he savaged in an earlier post, he was clearly out for blood and found it in you. I don’t think you owed him even an acknowledgement after how he talked to you and about you, but you handled it with class. Sometimes a shower is a great perspective reset.

  22. I felt that Michael was rude and disrespectful towards you, Robert, and that you got played into his sensationalist leanings. After he couldn’t pick a fight with Blaine Cook a day earlier, and revealed his shocking lack of understanding of the very development team leader he savaged in an earlier post, he was clearly out for blood and found it in you. I don’t think you owed him even an acknowledgement after how he talked to you and about you, but you handled it with class. Sometimes a shower is a great perspective reset.

  23. Ben: if you hand me a business card a couple of things:

    1. If it’s me personally I don’t hand those over to other people. TO ME a relationship with you is more important than anything else and if I do anything to ruin that relationship I have with you that’ll just bring a pox on my business.

    BUT:

    2. When you hand your business card out you lose all control of what happens with that email address. Sorry, but Arrington and you are totally wrong on this one. You don’t have the right to tell me “you can use Outlook but not Gmail.” And, yes, you ARE taking a risk that I’ll sell your email address to a spammer or do something else that you’d find nasty. I’ve had people take my email into a public discussion list, which spread my email address beyond people I might care to give my email to. There’s also no way for you to control that.

    Which is the reason I put my email up on my public blog. I figure that way I don’t have to worry about these issues since everyone will have access to my email address and I’ll just build systems to separate the good messages from the bad, which isn’t hard to do.

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