A Facebook/Microsoft data sharing discussion
A typically inaccurate, incomplete and inflammatory post on TechCrunch by Mike Arrington entitled The Very Curious Microsoft-Facebook User Data Relationship caught my attention yesterday. In it Arrington questions the validity of Facebook allowing Live Messenger users to import their Facebook contacts into Live Messenger. He says:
But Microsoft’s Invite2Messenger appears to violate that policy.
I’m struggling to understand why Invite2Messenger violates that policy because no data changes hands without the express permission of the Facebook user. I’ve read and re-read Arrington’s post and I still don’t understand.
Arrington also says:
Robert Scoble was banned for doing exactly what Microsoft is now doing with Facebook’s apparent blessing.
That’s not true because in the case in question Robert Scoble used a frowned-upon technique known as screen-scraping which is very different to the method used by Invite2Messenger.
Later Arrington asks:
Why does Microsoft want these social connections imported into Messenger?
The answer is quite simply that Microsoft want more people to use their services. Seems like a strange question to ask, certainly for someone of Arrington’s knowledge, experience and profession.
And later still:
Why did Facebook allow this in the first place (in other words, what did they get out of it)?
The answer to that one is that Microsoft allow Facebook to build the same feature i.e. the ability to pull contacts from Messenger into Facebook. Given that there are in the region of 250m Messenger users and approx 100m Facebook users* it seems to me that Facebook stands to benefit more than Microsoft. This important piece of info was missing from Arrington’s post, hence why I called it “inaccurate”.
Anyway, more interesting than all of that to Windows Live fans such as myself is that Chris Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer from Facebook, replied in the comments basically refuting what Arrington had said and (amongst other things) remarked:
We will also continue to work with Microsoft, a trusted partner, and others to test various data portability initiatives. This includes exploring how Facebook products may integrate, with user permission, to Microsoft’s new Live.com.
So, it sounds as though Facebook information may be appearing in the Windows Live What’s New feed after all; as I remarked on Thursday in my post The complete list of web activities in Windows Live Facebook was conspicuous by their absence from the list of partners that were announced on that day.
If you want to read the background to what Arrington speaks of in his post then you could do worse than go and read another spectacularly ill-informed** Fortune magazine article published in January of this year entitled The hard side of Mister Softie and my follow-up post Set me free.
I can, and perhaps will, be accused of being a Microsoft apologist and a Microsoft fanboy (legitimately so – I’ll admit to it) but reputable companies misinforming their readership like this stinks and I want to point that out.
*The numbers here may not be accurate but there’s enough of a gap to support the point that Facebook stands to benefit more than Microsoft.
**Ill-informed because it states “Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO) routinely allow users to take their contacts with them when they join new social networks. So why doesn’t Microsoft?”. When the article was written Microsoft DID allow users to do that (at http://dev.live.com/contacts) and since then they have provided (in beta form) another way to do it as well with the Live Framework.