Will the real Michael Arrington please stand up when it comes to Google vs. Facebook?

Arrington at Techcrunch's fifth birthday party

I’m confused.

Techcrunch founder Michael Arrington seems to be saying that Facebook is wrong to suck up data from Google’s contact systems, especially after Google has tried to block Facebook from doing that.

In another post on November 5 he even seems to be saying that Facebook should open up its data hoarde and let everyone have access.

So why am I confused?

Because Mike and I have had only one really violent argument. I’ve always thought that Facebook should have opened up and should allow users to take contact info to other systems. Where did that argument break down? In May of 2008. Yes, more than two years ago! On a Gillmor Gang (you can read the transcript, I think the original recording has disappeared, unfortunately, but I’ll try to find that in the morning).

Why did that argument happen? Because I let Plaxo test a system that would suck just my friends email addresses out of Facebook and put them into Google’s contacts. Doing that broke Facebook’s terms of service, and got me kicked off of Facebook for a day.

On Gillmor Gang a few months after that event, Mike and I had it out in a shouting match. Josie Fraser was listening to that show and said it was “the geek world equivalent of the Jerry Springer Show.” Chris Saad was on the show and he encapsulated the points held by the participants very well.

Only I thought that we should ALWAYS be able to move email addresses and names back and forth between these systems without any restrictions.

Only I have been consistent. Glad to have Mike on my side finally.

But, now, let’s discuss this. It’s too late. Google has already lost its database to Facebook. It’s now posturing and doing that poorly. A friend said Google should be cheered for finally standing up. Oh, yeah, that’s like cheering the zookeeper for finally closing the gate after all the animals get out. It’s over. Google allowed the biggest identity theft migration we’ll ever see in our lifetimes. Those animals aren’t going back in the zoo. How do I sign on Techcrunch today? With my Facebook identity, not my Google one.

What’s funny is that Facebook IS making moves to open up. Back when we had that argument Facebook wasn’t open at all. Today when you use a new music service it already knows about all the previous music you’ve liked. Why? Because of Facebook’s new open systems that didn’t exist two years ago. And I can list a ton of such examples of other such systems that have been built on top of Facebook’s open graphs.

Yes, Facebook still forbids email addresses to go elsewhere. They SHOULD open up, and I’ve heard from some company employees that say they are considering such a move.

The problem? It’s too late for Google. Facebook knows this, which is why it’s being more open. Why? Well, my Google social graph has rotted. The 8,000 names on my Google Contacts are attached to email addresses that are old, not good, and phone numbers that are old, not good. Tonight I tried to call someone from my phone’s contact list. The number was dead. I went to Facebook, grabbed his new number there and I even made the call right from the Facebook iPhone app.

It’s too late for Google to get all of our contact and other data back. They should have closed the zoo gate two years ago. They didn’t. They lose.

Nice for Arrington to get on Google’s side now that the game is already over. When will the real Michael Arrington stand up for true data portability?

What Google needs now isn’t just the email address. It needs our social graph too. Chances that Zuckerberg will hand that over? Between zero and zero.

For some more fun, lets look back at some of Arrington’s quotes from that Gillmor Gang, shall we?

“And this is what I wrote last night in the middle of the night because Scoble’s post really pissed me off. And I’m happy to talk about that too, but I think that if you look back at the days of the mid- to late 1990s, walled gardens were getting a lot of attention. People hated them, but they had the big market caps and AOL is the perfect example of they get you in and they keep you in.”

and

“Arrington: Well OK, let me talk about that because what Scoble did… See, Scoble screwed up earlier this year, because he used a Plaxo tool that went into Facebook and grabbed all of his friends contact information. And that’s not trivial to do because all that contact information is presented in a JPEG. It’s an image because Facebook doesn’t want people to easily scrape it.

So Plaxo went in, pulled up the friends list, pulled up each page. Used optical character recognition software to turn that into free text and then export it into Plaxo. And because of that, Facebook just banned Robert Scoble. Shut down his account temporarily. He was wrong then. And the reason I think he was wrong to try to do that is he thought, “This is my data, I want to export it.”

But my argument was, that isn’t his data, that’s my data. If I’m his friend and he’s pulling my contact information out of it, he’s changed the rules on me. The rules that I know are set by Facebook, which is that the data is presented only in an image, etcetera and he’s exporting where God knows what could happen to it.

And I don’t know if, a couple years ago I wrote about a company called Jigsaw. Which actually people get paid to upload contact information for possible sales leads. And I think it’s one of the worst things on the Internet. And so this sort of this my basic contact information, I need to have some control over who gets that and how. So I think he was wrong. And I think he knew he was wrong.

So yesterday, he sees this situation happen where Facebook bans Google from letting people export their own contact information. And in his eyes, I think he saw it as an analogy to what happened earlier in the year. So he changed his position and said, “No, no. I think Facebook is right. I think, hey, it showed I was wrong earlier in the year, and Facebook’s right to sort of stop this and protect and my data.”

And so the post I wrote was: “Look, Robert, you’re wrong both times. You were wrong the first time because you were talking about my data, my contact information that you were exporting. Then, yesterday, you’re talking about your own data and how Facebook should have the right to stop that from being exported if you choose to export it.”

and

Scoble: Let me have something to say here. Let’s back up. There’s two issues here. One, if you really are going to let me act like it’s my data to do with whatever I want, when you give me access to your email address…

Arrington: Oh, God. You’re still stuck on that.

Scoble: I am stuck on it…

Arrington: No, Robert! No! If I hand you my business card, does that give you a right to publish that information on the net and sell it to other people? Which is Jigsaw’s business model.

Scoble: Who said I’m selling it to anybody? It’s not why I’m using it. It’s just an email address.

Arrington: But that’s Jigsaw’s business model.

Scoble: And I’m sick and tired of you guys mischaracterizing what I said! I never said I was going to give it out to the public…

Arrington: It doesn’t matter, Robert. You changed the rules. It doesn’t matter what you were going to do. You changed the rules.

Scoble: I did not change the rules.

Arrington: You took the data. I gave you the data under this explicit set of rules, and those explicit set of rules are: you can look at it as an image on Facebook when you’re logged in. And you took that data, you exported it to a third-party service that I don’t have a relationship with…

Scoble: OK. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait! Let me have a say. You ripped me an asshole without giving me a chance to say anything. Wait a second.

First of all, you friended me. That’s an implicit act giving me some rights. Second of all, you give me your email address, which has no utility at all in Facebook. Why would you give that to me? Are you saying that I can’t enter that email address into Gmail and send you an email? I can’t enter it into Outlook and send you an email? Or I can’t go over to Yahoo email and send you an email? Is that what you’re saying?

Arrington: No.

Scoble: Then how did I..?

Arrington: I’m thinking you can’t turn it into pretext and export it to a third-party service — who has huge privacy issues, by the way. That’s what I’m saying you do.

Scoble: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Back up, back up, back up. If you give me the ability to enter it into email, into Outlook, that explicitly gives it access to some other things.

Arrington: No. I’m explicitly…

Scoble: It does.

Arrington: Robert, let me explain very carefully…

Scoble: When you hand me your business card…

Arrington: Wait, Robert. Let me explain it really carefully. When I give you my email address, I’m not giving you the right to hand that email address over to third-party services to do with what they want.

Scoble: Yes you are. Absolutely you are. Because, guess what: you already are. You’re giving me the permission to put it into Gmail. That’s a third-party service. You’re giving me the permission to put into Outlook. That’s a third-party service.

Arrington: Hold on. Robert, hold on. You’re right in that I am implicitly giving you permission to put it into Gmail, probably add it to your contact list there, and send me an email. What I don’t want you doing is going to third-party services like Plaxo, which have a horrible reputation when it comes to privacy, and giving them control of that data.

Scoble: You have no right to tell me what to do with that data. You have absolutely no control and no right to control how I use that email address.

Gillmor: OK. All right. Now, here’s where you both have to listen to me for a second.

Scoble: OK.

Gillmor: The fundamental right is the user’s right. The user’s right is an understanding — what some people call a social contract — of what is going to be done with that data. When somebody violates that understanding, forget about the legal conditions, the terms of service, the assumptions on the part of the person who is going to do something with that data. Forget about all that. If the user’s rights are violated, according to the user, from that moment on, the social contract between that user and other people is broken…

Scoble: It’s not the user’s right…

Gillmor: Hang on. Hang on. I’m almost done. And that user, writ large, is going to have a big, big role in what happens to data, generally, moving forward. So, when you went and, as an agent of Plaxo, went after that data, it’s not that we don’t trust you, Robert — of course we trust you. We don’t trust the person that comes along and rummages around in the garbage can and picks up all this data and says, “Oh, hey, cool,” and all of a sudden, we’re getting spammed within an inch of our life for the rest of our lives about the stuff.

Scoble: First of all, Mike’s email was already in Outlook before I scraped it off of Facebook. Second of all, it’s already in Plaxo. But you don’t have access to that account in Plaxo. That’s my account, and it’s my data, and if Plaxo starts fucking with my user rights, then I’m going to go ape shit.

Gillmor: The point is that you are a representative of what could go wrong. It is not that you are wrong. It is that if you establish a precedent to be able to access data in the way you did, other bad actors can come along, and they can broadcast it on Mars and open up a lemonade stand around it.

Scoble: Here’s the whole problem with this whole argument. If he friends me, he’s giving me some trust. If I misplace that trust by putting his email address on my blog, for instance, without his permission…

Arrington: Plaxo.

Scoble: No, Plaxo keeps it private. It’s for my own uses. You don’t have access to my…

Gillmor: You don’t know that Plaxo keeps it private. That’s a contract between you and Plaxo, and I don’t necessarily agree to that contract.

Scoble: Well, OK. But you don’t have control. You are not in control here.

Gillmor: We only have control of our relationships with the people that we know.

Scoble: Exactly.

Gillmor: If you violate that trust, no matter how innocently you do so, it comes back on you, not on Plaxo.

Scoble: Exactly. I’d better choose my vendors very carefully, and make sure that if they screw me, I go ape shit.

Gillmor: Well, I’ve never heard you go ape shit about Plaxo, because I think they screwed you big-time.

Arrington: And here’s the other thing, Robert. This is a bit of a red herring, because we’re talking about whether, when I give you an email address, it’s mine or yours.

The biggest problem here is that that it screwed up your head, and it got you thinking, “Wow. I just got trashed on the Internet. Maybe I was wrong.” And then the new issue comes along, and you’re so screwed up from the last issue that you’re like, “Oh, OK. This time on the side of right, so Facebook was right in protecting this data.” And again, what happened was you were just dead wrong again.

Scoble: [laughs]

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. Robert, Facebook doesn’t forbid e-mail addresses to go elsewhere. They have an API and you can get e-mail addresses out of that API with user permission. Google is choosing not to use that API. In fact, Yahoo has chosen to adopt that API and you can actually use Yahoo to produce an exportable e-mail list and put that into Google (since Google refuses to do it). The onus is on Google – they can get Facebook contact data just as easy as Facebook can get Google contact data. They just choose not to do it.

    See http://theharmonyguy.com/2010/11/05/how-to-export-your-facebook-friends-e-mail-addresses/ for how to use Yahoo to get your contact data. Also, just go to https://register.facebook.com/download/?h=ce550c20347e4d5288744fcf7b6a1451 and you can also get the e-mail addresses from Facebook itself. Facebook is open – they weren’t back during your Plaxo problem, but they are now. I don’t understand all the fuss.

    1. Jesse, thanks for clarifying that. That API didn’t exist in 2008 and all attempts to get email addresses out were rebuffed back then. But even today you need users’ permissions. That isn’t needed on Google’s side. I slurped all my Google email addresses over to Facebook without asking anyone.

      1. Frankly, I’d prefer you get my permission before sharing my e-mail address with others (I would give you a “yes, please share it any time” answer though). I think the privacy Facebook is offering is a good thing, but it’s certainly not closed.

      2. Frankly, I’d prefer you get my permission before sharing my e-mail address with others (I would give you a “yes, please share it any time” answer though). I think the privacy Facebook is offering is a good thing, but it’s certainly not closed.

        1. I think you are nuts. If you hand me your business card you lose control of the info on it. I’m not gonna ask you permission each time to make a copy of it or put that data somewhere else.

        2. I think you are nuts. If you hand me your business card you lose control of the info on it. I’m not gonna ask you permission each time to make a copy of it or put that data somewhere else.

          1. By the way, you are totally channelling the 2008 Arrington. Someday you’ll catch up with the 2010 one and realize just how stupid that position actually is.

          2. I don’t have to share my e-mail address with you, though. The place Facebook needs to fix is if I share my e-mail address with you via the Facebook UI, it should be accessible to you in the API as well when an app is making requests on your behalf. It’s silly that’s not available, and I imagine it’s just a matter of priority for them. It’s available in their Data backup (link that I shared earlier) and they’re already allowing special access to other services for this.

          3. If I can see your email address I can do anything I want with it, including putting it into Google or MIcrosoft and you can’t stop me. Hell, I can even write it in my little black book of people who are on the wrong side of this argument. :-)

          4. Except that my contact list was done on Google from business cards. Facebook was very happy to import them, without allowing exports. I can see the business value in this “data hotel.” By the way, Facebook is VERY happy to let you take nearly every other piece of data and spray that across the internet. Look at how Pandora shows me your musical tastes (or did unless you change the default to not allow it to see anything).

          5. Again, that’s the point – I can control that with Facebook. It’s why I put data in Facebook. So I can tell it how I want my friends to see my private data. I can’t do that with Google, and Google is becoming much less interesting and useful to me as a result. I can turn off my data going to Pandora if I want.

          6. I am nuts, but that’s besides the point. :-) Business cards are old technology Robert – they don’t have privacy controls like Facebook does. When are you going to get into 2010 when privacy controls are the norm? ;-)

            Seriously though, that’s the advantage to technologies like Facebook. I can say “I want friends only to see my e-mail address” and have that truly happen. Sure, you can manually take it and share it, but you can’t in bulk, at least not without my permission. That’s important to people like my Dad, who is an Executive at a publicly traded company.

            Now, where Facebook is flawed is if I say “make my e-mail address visible to everyone”, right now the API doesn’t respect that – it still asks for your permission if you want to share it. If I’ve already said that anyone can see it, then any of my friends should be able to openly have access to it via API, it should appear in my default, public user profile in the Graph API, and there should be no walls to it.

            Technically, there ought to be one additional privacy control as well that says, “make my e-mail address visible to just my friends, but they can have full access to it to download and do what they want.” I would probably set that as the default privacy control. Again, my guess is it’s a matter of priorities for them.

          7. Business cards have privacy controls. They are called social rules. If I started getting spam from you you lose my friendship. These new rules are lame and just there to protect the business. They aren’t protecting you from anything.

          8. A social rule is different than a privacy control. I can always unfriend you on Facebook. That’s a social rule. I can prevent you from seeing just my e-mail address. That’s a privacy control. I can’t turn on and off an e-mail address, nor can I allow an automatic export of just those contacts who want me to have their e-mail address on a business card.BTW, I prevent very specific people from seeing some of my info on Facebook. They do protect me, and I use it all the time. But then again I’m nuts. :-)

          9. I think when it comes to your name and your email address those things aren’t gonna cause you harm if they get out and I think you’re nuts. But, it works in Facebook’s favor because they can suck in Google’s data, and Google can NOT suck in Facebook’s. Because of these rules. I really don’t care anymore. It was an interesting argument two years ago. But now everyone I know is on Facebook and it really doesn’t matter.

            Except that I think Facebook WILL open up its email addresses and Google WILL become more closed in an attempt to convince people like you that it’s “safer.”

            Hint: it’s not.

            If I can see your email address (and, if you want me to find you, or email you, which almost every human will) then I’ll have the ability to do anything I want with your email address anyway.

            The Amish? Yeah, they won’t let me have their email addresses. Nearly everyone else does and will.

          10. The point is *if* you can see my email address. I don’t have to choose to share that with you. With Google, because Gmail is built entirely around e-mail addresses, I don’t have the choice. With a business card I usually don’t have the choice (well, I could globally exclude it or scratch it out I guess).

            Facebook is a safer environment because of that. As long as people learn how to use it, the privacy controls are what make Facebook a very powerful environment. Google doesn’t quite get that yet, although they are trying really hard to catch up.

          11. Yup. True enough. But guess what, my scraper didn’t work on anyone who didn’t show their email address to me anyway. Only worked on people who had shared their email address with me.

          12. Yes, agreed, and that’s my point – Facebook’s API should work the same way. And, in fact, it actually does – they just haven’t gotten around to updating their new graph apis with these permissions. The old Connect APIs still work and any service like Google can pull the e-mail addresses of your friends for you.

          13. sorry for butting in

            “I can prevent you from seeing just my e-mail address. That’s a privacy control.”

            Precisely. Now, if your privacy control allows me to see your email address, in my books that is your permission to me to run home with your email address and do whatever I want with it.

            PS: I don’t really mind that you write email as e-mail. I am just used to writing it as email.

          14. Sorry, I don’t buy that argument as Business Cards have no privacy controls. As soon as you hand out one, that card can go anywhere in public. The person can drop your card and be picked up by another person that you’ve never met. The data on the card can be transposed and added to a sell-able marketing list. Etc…

          15. I wonder who has funded a marketing company whose business model is “We will collect names and addresses by following professionals and picking up lost business cards” :)

        3. What Facebook really needs is the ability for people to say, “Give anyone my e-mail address, I’m okay with it”. Then it would satisfy both problems. If I didn’t want you sharing my e-mail address, Facebook respects that. If I don’t care, they respect that, too.

        4. The problem here is – Gmail where most of Google contacts come in is an Email service. Not all contacts have Google accounts. Technically it would be impossible to implement a system to ask for permission.

          I Agree with Scobleizer. One I got my friends info, I can use it (share it) with any service to pull him in there.

          1. Only if I agree for you to see my e-mail address in the UI though. I don’t have to even let you see my e-mail address in Facebook if I don’t want to. Same goes for phone number and any other piece of data.

          2. You bet, and there are some disconnects with the data Facebook shares in the UI vs what they allow in the API. I imagine it’s just priorities and getting the technology in place.

          3. Actually, as Omkar pointed out, this is already in their old API (which still works). They just need to get it in the new API. It’s all currently accessible though.

            Isn’t that the same for Google though?

        1. Omkar, great point – the old API allows that. Graph API doesn’t. The old API still works though – I’m assuming they just haven’t gotten all the same privacy controls into Graph API yet. If I enter my wife’s ID into the currently working old API calls I get her e-mail address just fine. FQL ought to also work, no permission from her necessary.

          So regardless, Facebook does make this data completely available. Google is choosing not to use it.

          1. Great points, this should be Facebook’s response.

            My guess is that Google really wants a sync feature in Facebook’s latest API. A way for a developer to just demonstrate user permission and the API will return email addresses and date of birth, sex, location, and everything else about that user’s friends.

        2. I don’t think what you’re describing is actually what this API does. The “you” in that page’s description refers to the application developer – if your friends have not also authorized the application and given it permission to access their e-mail address (and not a proxied address), you won’t be able to access your friends’ e-mail addresses via this API.

  2. I like what the Windows Live team has done with Facebook contacts. You can merge them with your Windows Live Contacts and keep them synced. And yes, you can export them.

  3. I like what the Windows Live team has done with Facebook contacts. You can merge them with your Windows Live Contacts and keep them synced. And yes, you can export them.

  4. Wow, real-time comments :) Robert, I remember distinctly you “scraped” them because you were using unauthorized software, and they booted you off for a while, didn’t they?

  5. Wow, real-time comments :) Robert, I remember distinctly you “scraped” them because you were using unauthorized software, and they booted you off for a while, didn’t they?

  6. I can see both sides of this issue. On one hand, once you voluntarily hand your contact information (or any information, for that matter) to another person, you lose some control. However, I don’t think you lose *all* control.

    Mikes point is valid: though he has trusted you with his contact information, it’s within limits. Would it be right to sign him up for newsletters, email marketing spam, and the like just because you have his email address? Of course not! You, as the recipient of information, are in a trusted position but that trust only extends to you. It absolutely does not extend to third parties. You do not have the right, or the authority IMHO, to submit my information to any terms of service or use. Period. YOU have liberal control of YOUR information but not mine.

    This issue can get really muddy when you put it in the context of the social web where the rules of connections, interconnections, and information sharing are still being defined. But I think this is a cut and dried case here: I am providing you my contact information for the sole purpose of allowing you to contact me, nothing more. By providing that information, I am not giving you permission to subject me to ANY third party rules or contracts.

    1. It’s not right, but it happens all the time. You have no control once someone else gets control of your email address. Magazines even sell your email address to spam companies. I saw that happen all the time when I was in that industry.

      But, in any case, that’s NOT what I was arguing. I was arguing that I should have the ability to put it on any personal use tool I wanted to. I just wanted to put your email address into Google Contacts (or Microsoft Outlook). That’s all. Mike thought that was nuts. I’m glad he’s now coming around.

      1. I can see your point, Robert, but I think it goes deeper than that. When you enter my email address in a contact tool like Google Contacts, Plaxo, or any other online management services, you are subjecting my information to the terms and services of that service in regards to how they handle the data contained in user accounts. These are terms I might not agree to. In fact, they might be terms that have PREVENTED me from using that service because of privacy concerns. But, still, they now have access to my data without my consent.

        So I still think you have limited rights with shared information. You have the absolute right to enter my information into any tool that DOES NOT have do ANYTHING but store my date. It doesn’t mine it, it doesn’t sell it, it doesn’t market it. Nothing. You do NOT have the right to subject me to a terms of service or any other contracts that might bind YOU.

        Either way, I think you both had excellent points. Too bad it didn’t get physical. lol

          1. Excellent: @scobleizer “It don’t matter anymore anyway. Facebook has won and has become the identity system of the web. Google ain’t gonna put that back into Gmail.”

  7. I used Yahoo Mail “import contacts” to get my contacts out of Google… some fields got garbled.

    It’s only recently that Google got import/merge working almost perfectly. So now I wonder if gathering my contacts / social graph can’t be more of a dynamic thing. I’m half resigned to Facebook world domination but I’d like to keep the small database I have in Google Contacts. Call me old fashioned. :)

  8. There are so many different threads going on here! Facebook has become the Web identity system – no question. It *appears* pretty open/portable (Social Graph data via API) but we will have to observe over time to be sure. Google won’t be able to bottle it again – no question. Is this good? Probably. We need a single identity authenticator. OpenId, MS Passport etc. tried but Facebook is much better placed to make it work.

    The trust point is key: If I give you some power (my details); what rights do you have over them? The business card model has worked as it infers the recipient (and his immediate company) *only* can use them – people don’t typically share business contacts. We can’t use that as a basis any more – we need a new social model; one probably more like a director appointing a manager to manage people he used to manage. Everyone recognises the need to be fluid and the director puts his trust in the manager (who acts autonomously). If things go wrong (in our case with trust abuse), the director intercedes. There’s also periodic reviews. I think we’ll evolve to something like this pretty soon.

  9. If I use Google contacts to store my contact info, I’m going to put your email address there, period. That’s where I store my contact info. If I use Outlook, I’ll put it there. If I use a black book, I’ll put it there. In my mind I’m not exposing your info to Google’s terms of service, rather I’m using Google as my preferred contact management system for my own use.

    If Google now shares my contacts with others without my permission, that’s a different matter. That’s their bad. But, if Google shares them with my permission, then I assume responsibility for that. Problem is that it’s so easy now to share your contact info with others and people are doing it without consideration of the potential consequences to their friends’ privacy. In the old days it wasn’t easy to share this info.

    I think Facebook is taking the right approach here and concur with Jesse’s position. In this new era I should be able to choose whether or not you can share my info with others, or simply use it for yourself. I applaud the efforts along these lines. The biggest privacy problem I’ve seen in the past with email users are the emails they unwittingly send to their email lists, where everyone’s address is in the address field, 20 forwards deep. They do this unwittingly, but very frequently. This has been bugging me for years. It’s not done intentionally to share all that info with others, it’s done out of ignorance of the BCC line and, sometimes, laziness to remove them from the message they are forwarding. I’ve always hated these forwarded messages and always reply to the sender that they remove me from their mailing list. However, this has been going on since the advent of email.

  10. Here’s the reality Robert, and I believe it’s the best analogy. It’s similar to the gas car, hybrid car, hydrogen powered, and electric car. The early tech adopter believes in the hybrid, electric car, or hydrogen powered car is the best way to travel in a vehicle, and the oil industry people believe the gasoline way is the best way. However, is the oil investor going to shut down all the gas stations and try to get all the stations to invest in everyone switching to electric or hydrogen vehicles any time soon? Can we convince the person into gasoline cars that there is a different, or better way of fueling cars? They may not even see it. Is the muscle car enthusiast going to switch his engine to an electric engine? Similarly, can we convince the people who operate a hundred million person social network that there is a different, or better way of social networking, and release their social contacts to another social graph? What if we did? It might be hard to shut down the networking site or send off the users to the newer way of doing things, as some people won’t understand. They probably don’t want to admit the things they are doing are not a best practice, because they’ve been doing them for years. Opening up could lead to vulnerabilities and hinder the growth of their network.

    Even if there is a better way to social network out there, which I know there is, and I have that big idea :) The challenge is getting the oil tycoons of social networking to believe in the hydrogen and electric ways of doing things, the more natural way and let a social network grow more organically. The networking sites today have mostly grown artificially. Not saying this is bad, yet essentially what they did was use forceful methodology on AIM with an instant messenger robot to get people to take their AIM account. They did the same with email, and assume that your emails sent is your social graph, which is different from a contacts graph. You can add someone to a contacts graph and never be in a 2 foot radius of that person in your entire life, meaning real life. I’m not talking about telepresence, I’m speaking of real experiences spent with someone. Are you a social connection with that person, or just a distant contact?

    This is only my opinion and hypothesis. These are not your social graphs, unless they mirror your real world existences. You can be chatting to someone on AIM who is a dog on the other end. A real social graph mirrors the real world existences, in either a photo you’ve taken with someone or a real world presence, not just a telepresence. The probability of your social graph being stronger in a photo, is more likely, or a venue in common because you’ve actually experienced the same presence. In the photo is equivalent to the wired connection, whereas in the same venue can be considered the wireless connection, and on the Internet is simply virtual.

    Social Networking Trends: If you notice over the years that the pre-existing social networks have always tended to follow the predecessor, go to a profile, leave a comment, and you’re connected. People have not proved a presence or a real networking connection.

    It’s not just Company A vs. Company B, it’s the methodology and the way the social networking is done. How is company A going about solving the problem, and how is company B going about solving the same problem differently. At the end of the day, all are tools. It’s not about having 500 million members on a network either, as that diminish the tool if the people cannot find or value a real connection, or just connect with anyone because they are on the network. What does a million or 500 million mean, if you cannot really say you’re real friends with someone, or have not found a real social networking connection, or 50 million are there just to play video games? Are these people there for video gaming, or social networking? The number does not matter, what matters is how the tool can connect the people, and how people make use of the tool. It’s not just the tool, yet what the tool promotes. Back to the electric or hydrogen car example, they are the same as the gasoline car, they are all cars, and they will all get you from point A to point B, yet it’s a different way of getting you there.

    What does company A do differently than company B? That’s what I’d like to know first, and it’s not only two companies, there are millions of networking sites. The Web is social…

  11. This post speaks to data ownership. If one party shares data with another without explicit sharing rules then the information is truly public domain.

    I can get pissed off at Robert for publishing my email on his blog (I wouldn’t, my email is already public on my blog), but he has the right to do so after I hand it off.

    Why is Facebook deciding when Robert should be? Is Facebook the only social service you trust, more than your friends? Thats silly.

    Data portability to trusted third parties opens up both negative and incredibly powerful opportunities down stream. How far would have the web gone if every published page required author permission to read?

    1. I’m with Mark on this, put the security ownership on the people and trust relationships, not in the platform defaults. As you know, I use to hit Facebook very hard on privacy but they’ve been doing much better as of late. On the issue of Data Portability, maybe there should be yet another setting in Facebook which enables or disables this ability in which the user chooses it’s value.

      1. Agreed that Facebook is moving the right direction. Jesse is quick to describe how they’re api making their data more portable and Facebook made the recent change to enable users to download their content (in bulk? I don’t have an active account) which is a nice touch.

    2. It’s all about data ownership and portability as Robert, Mark and others here have pointed out.

      However, I would go further than Jesse and say this is much more than just a “low priority” for Facebook. They actually have the API built to share email addresses but have placed it behind an business agreement (that they have brokered with Microsoft and Yahoo as some have mentioned). Making data available only when it benefits the business operator is not empowering the user to the control they deserve.

      If your data has been shared with me, then I should be able to decide what I do with it and what third-party services I use to manage it (e.g. Outlook, Google, Plaxo). Should the operator also dictate which web browser I use to “view” the data?

  12. Robert it is an interesting debate and post and for this casual observer you’ve provided some insight into the platform progress being made by FB. But I disagree that it is ‘too late for google’ What FB continuously, in my opinion, fails to account for is the users preference and experience – part of the reason why you get such flaps over nearly everything they end up doing. I suspect that the overwhelming majority of FB users use FB for one thing only and that is to share what they choose with their network. They aren’t emailing, they aren’t browsing, they aren’t searching, they aren’t networking, they read their news feed and add to it. So seems the battle for the contacts is still very relevant – deciding what to do with them another matter. In my opinion this is a great opportunity for product managers and product marketers to take note of how this continues to evolve and how decisions are made – something I wrote about when I saw the news about the gmail block http://www.inflectionmethods.com/2010/11/08/product-management-incubator-google-v-facebook/

    1. Users don’t know what they want except they don’t like change. Zuckerberg abuses that, but his ideas are more right than most other people’s ideas.

      Facebook is how you keep track of your friends. It’s the best contact list the world has ever seen. Especially since the social pressure on your friends to keep their data up to date is immense.

      But it really is over for Google. My wife’s entire elementary school class from Tehran (she’s now 39) is on Facebook. They all hook up together on Facebook, not on email. And there’s no way you’re gonna get that network of people to move somewhere else. Not until they are pushed by destruction of service and so far Facebook has been pretty flawless in providing a great service to them.

      1. Just finished reading the thread, and agree. Google has lost the value proposition. I do think Google can can recover somewhat via Android, but they have to step up their tool integration. Ars Technica and others in their 3rd party app review make this clear.

        Though in the end for Googleto stay relevant here they need to develop Facebook versions of their applications. Its a concession,but unless you want to end up like Microsoft and be relagated to the “large corporation no one pays attention to”, this is a better alternative.

      2. Just finished reading the thread, and agree. Google has lost the value proposition. I do think Google can can recover somewhat via Android, but they have to step up their tool integration. Ars Technica and others in their 3rd party app review make this clear.

        Though in the end for Googleto stay relevant here they need to develop Facebook versions of their applications. Its a concession,but unless you want to end up like Microsoft and be relagated to the “large corporation no one pays attention to”, this is a better alternative.

      3. Just finished reading the thread, and agree. Google has lost the value proposition. I do think Google can can recover somewhat via Android, but they have to step up their tool integration. Ars Technica and others in their 3rd party app review make this clear.

        Though in the end for Googleto stay relevant here they need to develop Facebook versions of their applications. Its a concession,but unless you want to end up like Microsoft and be relagated to the “large corporation no one pays attention to”, this is a better alternative.

      4. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      5. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      6. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      7. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      8. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      9. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      10. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      11. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      12. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      13. I wouldn’t say that it is over for Google, they just need to figure a way to work with Facebook and treat it as a core node (maybe a monetary arrangement). Facebook is primarily the Social CRM extension of the web for individuals but it’s just a CRM of people they know or knew fairly well. Many don’t really use FB for it’s contact info outside of FB. For many, the days of email addresses getting spammed with junk still is a major concern as well. Google (plus Yahoo) owns a decent percentage of those personal email addresses. I see nothing wrong with linking email address books with FB contacts but it’s a personal choice due to perception issues. Google needs to focus on it’s strengths of GMail, News and Google Profiles and become the outside perimeter of the social graph and forget about the core.

      14. I don’t disagree that Facebook owns the social web, but there remains disconnectedness in when, where and how I share – Biz sharing is here, news sharing is there, and personal sharing somewhere else all together. Also one could argue that beyond sharing there is no utilitarian consumption of Facebook’s capabilities, that is most do not GO to Facebook for some specific reason, they sort of just connect and consume. Google on the other hand serves. (consider the two verbs “faebook = connection” “google = serach”) So seems to me the integration of the social web and the serving web is ultimate battle ground. That was my original point – from product management and product marketing perspective it will be fascinating to observe. . . I imagine one day some 10 to 15 years from now MBAs exec programs will be dissecting the results.

  13. Point of interest: most people have no problem sharing their email address with strangers.

    When I implemented Facebook Connect for comments on my own sites, One of the things it does is to give a popup saying “Share your basic info” (name and such) and a separate line item saying “Share your email address”. There is an option there to use a FB-proxied address instead of giving the real-one. Nobody ever uses it, I’ve seen like 5 uses of it out of a couple thousand comments left using FB Connect.

    I don’t personally consider email addresses to be private, and don’t get that mentality, really. But having the option there is nice.

  14. What happened to common sense? If you put your email on a public page and actually think for one second it’s not going to get scraped by someone or another to send you spam, then you’re just plain naive (or stupid).

  15. When someone gives you their contact data, that’s for you to use, to contact them. Nothing else is implied. If you do anything with that data other than use it yourself or store it for your own use, you have violated their privacy. Unless they explicitly gave informed consent for you to do something else with it.

  16. This fussed about email address data between Facebook and Google had gotten out of hand, in which they are fighting over some data they both don’t own. I think what both should do is let their users have control over them (Google has this). That is my data and I should know what to do with it, not them. What scares me more is that Facebook is giving out my social graph than giving my email address.