Why did Facebook tell Google "stay off our lawn?"

Well, we’ve fought about it. Made noise about it. And you’re witnessing two giants (Google and Facebook) fighting over our social networks. Here, let’s discover my social network:

Robert Scoble (Friend of:)

  • -Mike Arrington
  • -Louis Gray
  • -Sarah Lacy
  • -Kara Swisher
  • -About 4,997 other people

Now, why is this little tree so important? Why shouldn’t I be able to copy this little tree over to, say, FriendFeed or Twitter or Upcoming.org or Yelp or Flickr or Google’s Friend Connect?

Easy. There’s a TON of money in that little tree and the hundreds of millions of little trees that YOU have added into Facebook and MySpace and other places.

How do I know that? Well, there’s a little stealth company that I’ve started hearing about. Media6.

A friend told me about them. They figured out that if, say, Mike Arrington buys something, that his friends are two to 10 times more likely than the general public to buy the same thing. Take that into advertising on Facebook: if Mike clicks on, say, a CocaCola ad, Media6 knows that his friends are far more likely to click on that ad than the rest of the 100 million people on Facebook.

So what is Media6 doing? How are they building a database of all of this info? I hear they are making deals with all sorts of advertisers over on Facebook to have a little line of JavaScript added along with their advertisement. That is letting them build a super database of everyone and their friend networks (their social graphs).

This is what I don’t get about Facebook’s stance: I’ve already shown you two companies that are figuring out how to get access to Facebook’s social graph data without even getting on Facebook’s radar screen. The first is Minggl, who uses a toolbar to download all your social graph data to your browser where it’ll be a lot more useful to you and now we have Media6, who is building a huge database of you, and your advertising-clicking behaviors.

Now are you getting it? Advertisers will go to Media6 because they’ll be able to better match up ads with people who are much more likely to buy the stuff they are hawking.

I bet Facebook is building its own internal database of exactly the same data too.

Truth is your social graph tells the world a HUGE amount about you. Facebook doesn’t want you to move that other places easily.

Translation: there are billions of dollars at stake here.

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.

Facebook has a point where it comes to your privacy

My ex-boss, John Furrier, goes after Facebook after Facebook blocked Google’s Friend Connect from using its API to inport friends from Facebook into Google’s Friend Connect.

I saw Dave Morin, who runs Facebook’s developer platform, at Google’s event Monday night. You can see him at the end of the event where I shoved my cell phone in his face and tried to get him to comment. He refused.

After the camera is off he said it was “interesting” that Google had used Facebook as one of the examples during its launch of Friend Connect.

I guess it was a lot more than “interesting.”

They blocked Google because they didn’t want Google to populate its friend network with data collected from Facebook.

Oh, I know, that’s not the real reason they told TechCrunch and others. Here’s the official statement from Facebook.

Facebook is being consistent here. Dave Morin told me a few months ago all about Facebook’s concerns. Such as, what happens if you change your email address, will it change everywhere that your email address got copied to?

Clearly with Google’s Friend Connect the answer is “no.” Why? Because it was a one-time action and there was no live connection back to Facebook and Google’s Friend Connect’s data would get older and older (and more and more out of date). Want to delete your email address off of the Web? Sorry, thanks to other systems Facebook can’t ensure that’ll happen.

Now, I’ve been on both sides of this story. A few months ago I tried using some unreleased technology from Plaxo to do exactly what Google did on Monday night. I not only got kicked off of the API (which is what should have happened) but my account was hidden and I was locked out for about 20 hours.

Facebook’s “penalty” for that behavior was way too harsh. And, some, like John Furrier, believe that Facebook is on the wrong side of the line tonight again.

Me? I think Facebook has a point, but I think the horse is out of the barn already and Facebook won’t be able to shove it back in.

Why? You should check into Minggl. It’s a toolbar that does far more than what Google’s Friend Connect does.

But it does it in a way that Facebook will never be able to block. Why? Because it’s your browser that scrapes all your friend’s info into Minggl’s browser bar. That bar then uploads all that information back up to Minggl. There’s no way that Facebook will be able to block Minggl. If Google wants to push the issue they should do exactly what Minggl is doing.

To get geeky for a moment, Minngl is collecting that data with a separate IP address each time the same one your browser is using. If Facebook wants to block Minngl it’ll have to block you from browsing to Facebook. Facebook can’t do that to everyone, so Minggl has picked an architecture that makes it impossible for Facebook to block. At least using technical methods. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook tried to sue Minggl or other companies that use similar methods to collect data.

Privacy is dead.

Anyone who puts anything on a computer screen that they want hidden from public view should think again. I don’t think it can be stopped and the walled gardens that have built around Facebook and other social networks are temporarily walled at best. That data WILL leak out of the walls and already is. Facebook’s attempt to keep the walls up will prove unsuccessful.

Just ask former KGO Radio Talk Show host Bernie Ward. He was convicted of sending child pornography through email to someone else. If email isn’t a private medium then surely Facebook isn’t. (The person he was emailing those photos to emailed them to the authorities).

What do you think? Does Facebook have a point or is the horse already out of the barn?

UPDATE: This is being discussed at a much faster rate over on FriendFeed than over here.

UPDATE2: Google employee Kevin Marks says I’m wrong in comments here. Here’s his correction to this post: “Robert, you’re wrong about Friend Connect data getting stale. It’s fetched directly from your linked Friend Data sources, including other Social Networks, with short-term caching on Friend Connect servers. There is a live two-way connection – Friend Connect posts back events to the Social Networks’ activity streams when the user choses to do so.”

UPDATE3: Mike Arrington over on TechCrunch thinks I’m wrong on this post. But, if you read the comments over on his blog you’ll see we’re not that far apart.