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Facebook's Relationship With Developers: It's Even More Complicated

Facebook's Relationship With Developers: It's Even More Complicated

When it comes to developers working with Facebook, "share and share alike" is the new policy. The social networking giant made it clear last week that if third-party apps want access to Facebook APIs, they have to let Facebook's users in on the results. The bottom line? No one rides the Facebook express for free.

By Erika Morphy
01/31/13 8:48 AM PT

Facebook dropped a bombshell on its developer community last week with the rollout of a clarified platform policy -- one that de-friends certain apps.

The new policy spells out which types of apps can use its data. Namely, developers must show "reciprocity"; their apps must let users post content to Facebook if they want to use the vast social network's friend-finding features.

"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," Facebook said in a blog post announcing the change.

Developers also will not be able to use Facebook if their app replicates the network's core functionality.

Saying No to Vine and Yandex

The clarification follows recent incidents in which Facebook restricted developers' access to its data. It reportedly restricted or curtailed access to Twitter's new Vine video-sharing app, as well as Wonder, a social search app from Yandex.

Facebook cited the new clarification policy when asked why the Vine app was no longer able to access Facebook.

Vine lets users create and share six-second videos on Twitter and Facebook. Its launch earlier this month featured controversy when it was revealed that some users was using the app to trade porn videos, and a salacious video mistakenly made Vine's "Editors Picks" recommendation list.

Keeping Up with Industry Trends or Slamming Doors?

On one hand it can be argued that Facebook is merely following industry trends; other social networks like Twitter have also banned apps that mimic their core functionality.

Facebook is targeting a small group 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," wrote Justin Osofsky on the company's developers blog.

In short, Facebook is moving aggressively to block Twitter and other social media sites from establishing free-rider status on its site, said Rich Hanley, associate professor and director of the graduate journalism program at Quinnipiac University. In Vine's case, that means blocking "a video-sharing application that has the potential to make lots of money.

"Twitter's Vine features a tool that encourages people to search Facebook for their friends and invite them to share videos," Hanley told TechNewsWorld. "Money follows eyeballs, and if the eyeballs go from Facebook to Twitter, Facebook loses and is, in fact, facilitating access to a competitor. Facebook is essentially in block-that-kick mode in preventing Twitter from monetizing its user base."


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