Google Takes a Swing

2010 November 8
by Dave

Google gave a little smack to Facebook last Thursday in service of higher user turnover. Google is closing it’s “get contacts” API to online services that do not in turn allow their users to export data. Gmail users can still export their contacts to a file and then import that file to Facebook, but they will no longer be able to push a button on Facebook and have all their contacts automatically sucked in.

My first thought was to question the motivation behind this move. My first answer to that question was to help competition in the social networking space by making it easier to move your social networking identity to a new network, one of the several that Google maintains for example.

On second thought though I decided that social networking competition is probably only a minor factor here. I think that it is all about devices. When you get a new smart phone, a lot of useful setup information could be imported from Facebook. You can upload all of your phone numbers and other contact info from your iPhone to Facebook, but not the other way.

As individuals use a larger multiple of different devices to communicate with each other, it is strongly in Google’s interest to keep services like Facebook from becoming user info dead ends that pull users of networked devices away from open communication protocols and towards closed communication networks. It is also in everyone else’s best interest to keep that from happening too.

The phone number is the best personal url currently in existence. Your friends on Facebook are the people that you are most likely to call. Keeping those numbers locked on Facebook is unhelpful.

The strangest part of this whole argument is that more openness allows users to do a better job of putting up their own walls. That was the whole trouble with Google’s buzz fiasco. You don’t want every one that you send an email to to be your friend.

But you do want to be able to send and email to everyone that is your friend.

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