It was a matter of time before Facebook issued some kind of retort to Google+. While interested users continue to clamor everywhere (even on Facebook) for an invite and Mark Zuckerberg gives the new social network a go, that doesn’t mean everyone’s ready to play nice. A Chrome extension that allowed new Google+ users to import their Facebook contacts has been blocked by the world’s largest social network.
This is all too familiar. Last fall, Google and Facebook had something of a falling out over the ability to import contacts from their respective sites. Google tried to disable Facebook users’ ability to import Gmail contacts – a move that was swiftly circumvented by a workaround. Google, of course, took issue with this because Facebook didn’t give users the option of exporting any contact information from its site into Gmail. At the time, Facebook engineer Mike Vernal said it wasn’t just to be petty – Facebook had a reason. “Email is different from social networking because in an email application, each person maintains and owns their own address book, whereas in a social network your friends maintain their information and you just maintain a list of friends. Because of this, we think it makes sense for email applications to export email addresses and for social networks to export friend lists.”
But the lines between these two sites functions are becoming blurred, making it difficult to determine who should be able to import what and from where. Google’s main communications platform, Gmail, now stands in addition to Google+, a bon-afide social network. Facebook, on the other hand, has introduced its Messages client, which includes @facebook.com email addresses. But no matter the technicalities, Facebook is still not willing to enter a two-way, equal sharing relationship with Google. Google+ users remain unable to pull their Facebook friends into the new service, which can easily be attributed to protecting user information. Of course, it could have something to do with the heavy praise Google+ has been receiving.
Facebook is also infiltrating enemy territory by sending execs and engineers to the site to glean information for its own purposes. Many a Google employee holds an active Facebook account, but Facebook’s staffers are being quite brazen about their intentions using Google+.
And while the Facebook Friend Exporter extension is currently disabled, developer Mohamed Mansour is doing his best to re-enable the tool. “Facebook is trying too hard to not allow you to export your friends. They started to remove emails of your friends from your profile by today July 5, 2011. It will no longer work for many people,” he says. “No worries, a new version is on the making…I am bloody annoyed now, because this proves Facebook owns every user’s data on Facebook.”
Sure, it might be aggravating and borderline enraging to learn that you can’t quickly and easily pull what you want from Facebook, but that’s how it’s always been on the site. There hasn’t really been as much need as there is now, when a highly popular and seemingly competitive alternative is finally in our midst, so user dissatisfaction with the policy is sure to spike.