The new war between Google and Facebook is heating up: Google Inc. will no longer let other services, especially Facebook Inc., automatically import its users’ email contact data for their own purposes, unless the information flows both ways, according to the Reuters’ report.
It accused Facebook, the world’s biggest social network, in particular of siphoning up Google’s contact data, without allowing for the automatic import and export of Facebook users’ information.
When you initially sign up for Facebook, you’re run through a series of prompts asking you to enter your Google account information so that Facebook can import the email addresses of your contacts.
This is a very powerful feature because it helps new users instantly connect with dozens of their friends. And Google is turning it off, because it thinks Facebook isn’t playing fair.
Until now, Facebook has been able to offer anyone setting up a new account the option to import their contact lists automatically from web e-mail services like Gmail, Microsoft’s Hotmail and Yahoo Mail.
In a statement, Google said: “The company is committed to making it easy for users to get their data into and out of Google products. That is why we have a data liberation engineering team dedicated to building import and export tools for users. We are not alone.”
“Many other sites allow users to import and export their information, including contacts, quickly and easily. But sites that do not, such as Facebook, leave users in a data dead end.” Facebook didn’t immediately provide a comment on Friday.
While Google framed the move as an attempt to protect its users’ ability to retain control of their personal data on the Internet, analysts said the move underscored the battle between Google, the world’s largest search engine, and Facebook, the world’s largest social network.
“The fundamental power dynamic on the Web today is this emerging conflict between Facebook and Google,” said Gartner analyst Ray Valdes. “Google needs to evolve to become a big player in the social Web and it hasn’t been able to do that.”
“If people do search within Facebook, if they do email within Facebook, if they do instant messaging within Facebook, all of these will chip away at Google’s properties.”
But Google said Facebook was not reciprocating, preventing Google from accessing certain types of data. “We have decided to change our approach slightly to reflect the fact that users often aren’t aware that once they have imported their contacts into sites like Facebook, they are effectively trapped,” Google said in an emailed statement.
“We will no longer allow websites to automate the import of users’ Google Contacts (via our API) unless they allow similar export to other sites,” Google said.
Google has coveted the wealth of information that Facebook’s 500 million users generate and amass. Having access to that data could be especially valuable to Google, whose business model is based on allowing its users to find any information anywhere on the Web.
“Google is trying to use the leverage that it has to get as much access to the Facebook social graph that it can, so it can provide the best search function that it can,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Lou Kerner. “The more data Google has access to the better its search results are going to be.”
Last month, Facebook announced a deal with Microsoft Corp allowing Facebook information—such as Web pages that Facebook users have endorsed by clicking on “like” buttons—to appear within Microsoft search results.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in September the company would add social “layers” to many of its existing Web products in the coming months, following its less-than-stellar track record of developing stand-alone social networking products like Orkut and the recently shuttered Wave service.
Gartner analyst Ray Valdes also added that the access to the explosion of new types of data generated by Web services, such as location-based services, would provide further flashpoints between two companies. [via Reuters and TechCrunch]