Facebook Responds To Platform Controversy Around Apps Voxer, Wonder, Vine

By Justin Lafferty 

In recent days, Facebook has been cutting off data access to applications that have been using it in ways that either compete with or replicate what the social network does — first with Voxer, then Wonder, and most recently Vine. Facebook Director of Platform Partnerships and Operations Justin Osofsky clarified his company’s stance with regard to sharing data. In essence, apps that allow users to share data back to Facebook are OK, while those that do not violate the site’s platform policy.

Osofsky wrote that Facebook has updated its platform policy with regard to sharing data. Here’s what it was in the past:

Competing social networks: (a) You may not use Facebook platform to export user data into a competing social network without our permission; (b) Apps on Facebook may not integrate, link to, promote, distribute, or redirect to any app on any other competing social network.

And here’s what it is now (see I.10):

Reciprocity and replicating core functionality: (a) Reciprocity: Facebook platform enables developers to build personalized, social experiences via the graph API and related APIs. If you use any Facebook APIs to build personalized or social experiences, you must also enable people to easily share their experiences back with people on Facebook. (b) Replicating core functionality: You may not use Facebook platform to promote, or to export user data to, a product or service that replicates a core Facebook product or service without our permission.

Recently, three apps have gotten themselves in trouble for not allowing users to share data back to Facebook — an act that Osofky claimed doesn’t enhance the Facebook experience at all.

Last week, Facebook blocked Voxer from accessing its open graph data. Voxer, a voice-messaging app, allowed its users to find and send voice messages to Facebook friends — competing with Facebook’s improvements within Messenger and the native Android app. Facebook pulled its data from the “find friends” feature of Voxer.

Thursday, Russian search engine Yandex released Wonder, which operated much like graph search, but for mobile. You could verbally ask Wonder about things your Facebook friends liked, and the app would return relevant results. Wonder’s Facebook connection lasted only a few hours before being nixed.

Friday, Facebook put the kibosh on its data connection to Twitter video-sharing app Vine, which allowed users to find Facebook friends and follow their video posts.

Osofsky wrote about how while Facebook does want apps that use the site’s open graph data to thrive, it just wants to ensure that the data communication flows both ways:

For the vast majority of developers building social apps and games, keep doing what you’re doing. Our goal is to provide a platform that gives people an easy way to log in to your apps, create personalized and social experiences, and easily share what they’re doing in your apps with people on Facebook. This is how our platform has been used by the most popular categories of apps, such as games, music, fitness, news, and general lifestyle apps.

For a much smaller number of apps that are using Facebook to either replicate our functionality or bootstrap their growth in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook, such as not providing users an easy way to share back to Facebook, we’ve had policies against this that we are further clarifying today.

Readers: Do you think Facebook is being fair, or is it scared of competition?