Facebook won't give 'Find Friends' data to competing apps

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Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) confirmed it will aggressively restrict competing applications from accessing its "Find Friends" data, citing platform policies against rival social networking services.

Late last week, AllThingsD reported Facebook abruptly cut off mobile social networking app Voxer's access to Find Friends data, which enables users to identify and add their contacts as Facebook friends. The Voxer app, which supports communication via voice, text, push-to-talk and other channels, leveraged Find Friends to let users auto-follow and connect with Facebook friends upon joining its service.

Voxer CEO Tom Katis told TechCrunch that Facebook considers Voxer a "competitive social network" and that the app ran afoul of Facebook's Platform Policies, which state "You may not use Facebook Platform to export user data into a competing social network without our permission. Apps on Facebook may not integrate, link to, promote, distribute or redirect to any app on any other competing social network."

Facebook told TechCrunch it will enforce the policy on apps that "use its data to bootstrap growth but don't contribute anything." A spokesperson explained that apps that share  content like photos or Open Graph stories with Facebook can continue to access Find Friends data, with only messaging apps that don't share content qualifying as competitors.

Although Voxer was live on the Facebook platform for more than a year without incident, it appears likely that the service has run into trouble with fledgling Facebook services like the standalone Messenger app, which last week added free VoIP calling for iOS device users in the U.S. In other words, Voxer did not pose a competitive threat until Facebook rolled out its own similar services.

Katis told AllThingsD that Facebook's decision is likely to have a significant impact on Voxer's business, explaining that only about a third of consumers who sign up for its service use their Facebook information. In addition, there are few differences in long-term engagement metrics between Voxer users that do and don't leverage their Facebook accounts at signup.

AllThingsD notes that rival social messaging services WhatsApp and Kik don't use Facebook's programming interfaces in conjunction with their apps.

For more:
- read this AllThingsD article
- read this TechCrunch article

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