In a slight tweak to a policy that inflamed relations with Google earlier this month, Facebook will allow users to export their friends’ @facebook.com email addresses to other services. They won’t, however, be able to export email addresses from other providers, according to spokesperson Larry Yu.
For the past few weeks, Facebook and Google have been embroiled in a very public dispute over contact importers. Google for years has allowed Facebook users to import their friends’ email addresses into the social network. But Facebook has not given users the opportunity to send their friends’ information and email addresses back to Gmail, creating as Google called it — a “data dead end.”
Google changed its terms of service a little over a week ago in a very pointed move at Facebook, asking the social network to reciprocate. Facebook declined, arguing that a social network is fundamentally different from email and that because of privacy concerns, users can’t own or share the email addresses of their friends (although it has made special exceptions for partners like Yahoo and Microsoft).
Today the company launched a new Messages product that integrates email and gives users @facebook.com addresses, which would seemingly invalidate the company’s earlier arguments.
However, Facebook’s new policy is that users will be able to export their friends’ @facebook.com addresses, but not email addresses from other providers.
It doesn’t particularly help Google though. Even if Google or another company managed to recreate parts of the social graph by importing @facebook.com addresses, these companies would still have to contact these users by their @facebook.com accounts, leaving the social network as the middleman.
One more important note: Theoretically, because Facebook email addresses are made up of the vanity URL and then @facebook.com, Google and other bots should be able to crawl all public Facebook.com URLs and come up with a list of many, if not most, of the social network’s users’ email addresses.
But because of Facebook’s spam protections, even if a bot or Google crawled the web for @facebook.com addresses, they wouldn’t be able to spam it because a user can only receive messages from friends and friends of friends in their main inbox.