Two days ago, Google+ chief Vic Gundotra’s simple post incited a war. “We are now getting reports of Google+ invite links not showing up on Facebook news feeds anymore (they appear to have stopped on Friday). I wonder how widespread this problem is?”
Gundotra posted this after a user’s YouTube video revealed how he was unable to share a Google+ invite on Facebook. He was able to update his status, but the invite was gone when viewing it from another account. See the video below to check out the malfunction.
Competition between Google+ and Facebook seems to be getting heated, and while tensions remain below the surface, it appears they’re threatening to boil over. Google+’s introduction of games and its decision to charge app makers a fraction of what Facebook does for transaction fees was something of a tipping point, and now there are rumors that Facebook is losing sleep over its rival’s potential.
Even still, we were skeptical that Facebook would block invite links. The site might be concerned about how a company like Google can compete, and it might even be none-too-pleased with some of its tactics, but censoring information is just anti-Facebook. But we’re not ready to write the whole thing off as a technical problem. Multiple users posted on Gundotra, as well as Google exec Bradley Horowitz’s profile, that they were experiencing the same issue.
If Facebook was silencing its users’ Google+ interests, it stopped. Within hours, users were reported they were able to send invite links on the site. We tested this as well, and our Facebook friends could see the post with the shortened and full URL.
A Facebook spokesperson told ZDNet it’s possible Facebook’s spam filter was blocking the link. If a link is posted and appears multiple times on a user’s News Feed, Facebook blocks it. “Newsfeed is an automated system that is designed to deliver the most relevant content to you and your friends. The technology evaluates hundreds of factors, including your relationship to the poster, the type of content, the click-through rate, and people hiding similar posts.” He says. “…As a result of all these factors, a given link may be shown or filtered to people differently at different times.” And the bevy of Google+ users outraged by the issue who tried it themselves likely led to an influx of invite postings, which could have resulted in Facebook blocking what it thought was spam.
Which, of course, begs the question to whether the whole thing was a ruse to get users mad at Facebook. Google has done a good job in general of getting consumers a little distrustful of Facebook, largely concerning the inability to export information from the social network.
So there are two possible explanations here: Either Facebook was blocking Google+ invite links and stopped once people caught on, or a technical error or over-posting was to blame. We want to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt, figuring that professionalism and ethics must come into play. At the same time, it’s difficult to ignore the increasingly competitive relationship between these two companies.
The real question is will this kind of behavior make users choose sides. For the time being, Facebook is so ingrained in many users’ online lives that abandoning the site altogether is more work than dealing with possible unfair tactics.