After just a few days of operation, Facebook has already slammed the door for Open-Xchange's OX.IO export tool. According to Facebook, the app violates its terms of service — but the company says "we are not violating anything."
So here's the scoop: Last week, Open-Xchange (a company that provides an Exchange-compatible email and collaboration suite) launched OX.IO. The new service is supposed to help users consolidate contact data, and worked with Facebook, but also works with GMail, GMX.de, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, SugarCRM, and a few others.
It's in beta and "could kill your hamster," but it's apparently feature-complete enough for Facebook to feel threatened by users wanting to grab their contacts and run. Like the Chrome Extension before it, Facebook has banned the site's API key so it can't work with user data off Facebook anymore. Facebook says that the tool has two violations: using a user's friend list outside of the application "even if a user consents to such use" and using a user's friends' data in the "context of the user's experience on your application." The really big glimpse into Facebook's mindset here is that they ban the use of your data with your consent.
In response, Open-Xchange claims that it's not violating anything, but gathering the same data that's available to users when downloading their information from Facebook. They also note that Yahoo seems to have the import functionality that Facebook is denying to OX.IO.
Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange, says that Facebook's move would make sense if the company had been "scraping" user content. "What is unexpected, and in my view stupid, is that FB slammed the door even though we used a very clean method to enable users to get their friends list. All "private" data, like the email addresses of the friends, will only be made available by the tool if those users have shared emails with the user already, so the address doesn't come from Facebook. In a way, we hoped Facebook wasn't that stupid.
By the way, if you're really determined to move off Facebook (and I'm of the mind that you should be) Open-Xchange says that it's creating an importer for the Facebook export tool. If users create an export and upload it to OX.IO, there should be no way for Facebook to stop that — unless the company simply stops allowing people to download their contact information manually.
Tools like OX.IO are going to become more and more common as social networks proliferate and users seek to make sense of all the options they have — and want portability between services. That, says Laguna, will show the true colors of the social networks. "The facades are coming down, these services will now have to show their real faces, ugly or nice."
Most of the discussion comparing Google+ to Facebook has been missing the point. While Google+ has a few features that you don't get with Facebook, and is still missing features that you have on Facebook, the real feature for Google+ is that it's not produced by a company with obvious contempt for users. Google is far from perfect, but the company does seem to be taking the user experience and user privacy very seriously. Facebook treats users as a feature for its advertisers and developers, rather than putting the user first. This is what's going to turn Facebook into the next MySpace or Geocities if the company doesn't start prioritizing users rather than "amazing" announcements that boil down to nothing more than Skype-enabled video chat.
(I'm looking for the original URL / source for the image in this post. If you know of the original source, please leave it in the comments. Thanks!)
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Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years covering IT. Formerly the openSUSE Community Manager for Novell, Brockmeier is a longtime free and open source software advocate. He has written for many publications, including Linux Magazine, Sys Admin, Linux Pro Magazine, IBM developerWorks, Linux.com, CIO.com, Linux Weekly News, ZDNet, and many others.