Facebook blocks extension to import friends to Google+

It appears that Facebook does not want a certain Chrome extension from importing friends from their service to Google+. The 'Facebook Friend Exporter', a Chrome browser extension, intends to make the transition between the two services more simple. As ZDNet reports, Facebook has blocked the extension. Having been designed by a worker at Research in Motion, the extension was intended to import all the friends from Facebook to a file or another service. Information on the extension was posted earlier on Neowin, as well.

According to the extension designer, Facebook has been slightly altered in order to prevent the extension from working, and it throttles the email system. Should someone view a friend's page five times in quick succession, the email field is removed. Having personally tested this, Neowin can confirm that Facebook does indeed remove email information should a page be viewed too rapidly. Despite the fact your friends have chosen to allow their email address to be viewed, Facebook is intervening in order to actually prevent you from viewing the information friends have chosen to display with you. Technically, the extension does violate the Terms of Service all Facebook users accepted:

You will not collect users’ content or information, or otherwise access Facebook, using automated means (such as harvesting bots, robots, spiders, or scrapers) without our permission.

The extension developer, Mohamed Mansour, has already made his standpoint on the situation clear. He says this on the extension information at the Chrome Web Store:

Get *your* data contact out of Facebook, whether they want you to or not. You gave them your friends and allowed them to store that data, and you have right to take it back out! Facebook doesn’t own my friends.

Interestingly, exploits have been found in order to try and keep the extension operational, and Mansour has further clarified his opinion of the world's most popular social network by saying the following on his Google+ profile:

I am bloody annoyed now, because this proves Facebook owns every users data on Facebook. You don’t own anything! If I were you, I would riot this to the media outlets again. Seriously … more motivation to figure out a different approach.

It is highly probable that either Mansour, or another developer willing to attempt to work with the locked down system, will attempt to find a way of continuing to export details from Facebook. The Friend Exporter was not originally designed for Google+, but as Google's network grows more desirable (with MySpace's Tom Anderson having said it will overtake Facebook), the number of extensions - and potentially malicious extensions intended to harvest data and send it to a third party - may also increase.

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56 Comments

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Who cares if facebook blocks an extension, its within their right to. It's their api, and they can do with it whatever they want to, and don't pretend any other large organisation (e.g. Google) would not do the same.

It all comes down to money the ol' mighty dollar and Google knows it, Facebook has developed a platform that can specifically target users with better advertising than Google could ever muster with their Adsense and Adwords, and Google wants a slice of the pie.

I just don't understand why so many ppl blame Google for 'stealing' or making shortcut to get Facebook's data.. it is not Google who create that extension

irony si that Facebook did exactly this to Gmail and MS and some other services (Myspace too i remember correctly)

social networks are about information and user-base thus they will try obtain them by any means no matter how low they are ...

Google really screwed themselves if they are worried about Google+ not taking off. They messed up when they made it an invite only. They should have just put a Beta tag on the site and allowed everyone to participate instead of a few people.

JSYOUNG571 said,
Google really screwed themselves if they are worried about Google+ not taking off. They messed up when they made it an invite only. They should have just put a Beta tag on the site and allowed everyone to participate instead of a few people.

Yeah you're right, Google+ will flop just like Gmail did.

Oh wait..

Good for Facebook. I don't think this is anti-competitive I think it is very competitive and I agree with the point that Google nor any other startup social network should have "free" access to what is took a competitor 100s of millions of dollars to amass. If Google wants to pay Facebook a fee or royalty or come up with some partnership then let them do that but Google should not be able to get that data for free.
To all those folks who would say “It's my friends list, I should be able to move it anywhere I please” I say you would not have that extensive friends list if it had not been for Facebook in the first place! Show some respect and maybe a bit of loyalty. Or stop being lazy and re-enter your friends list in G+ if you want to use it so much. And if you really want G+/Facebook integration then complain like crazy to Google and maybe they will get something going with Facebook that is fair.

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like most of the people commenting on this article didn't fully read it.

"Having been designed by a worker at Research in Motion, the extension was intended to import all the friends from Facebook to a file or another service."

All the "omg Google is trying to cheat" or "Facebook is being anti-competitive" comments are puzzling. That said, it's ridiculous that they're trying to prevent people from saving their contact data outside of Facebook.

Bendetto said,
Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like most of the people commenting on this article didn't fully read it.

"Having been designed by a worker at Research in Motion, the extension was intended to import all the friends from Facebook to a file or another service."

All the "omg Google is trying to cheat" or "Facebook is being anti-competitive" comments are puzzling. That said, it's ridiculous that they're trying to prevent people from saving their contact data outside of Facebook.

It's Neowin, are you really that surprised? I think I need to find a new website to visit...

Bendetto said,
Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like most of the people commenting on this article didn't fully read it.

"Having been designed by a worker at Research in Motion, the extension was intended to import all the friends from Facebook to a file or another service."

All the "omg Google is trying to cheat" or "Facebook is being anti-competitive" comments are puzzling. That said, it's ridiculous that they're trying to prevent people from saving their contact data outside of Facebook.

Reading again, this isn't all commenters' fault, it's largely the author's fault. The headline is "Facebook blocks extension to import friends to Google+", but in fact they're blocking an extension which doesn't import anything into Google+ at all. Again, I'm not surprised.

It really doesn't matter how much Facebook tries to protect its "business". In the end, people will stay/go with the one that offers them a better service anyway, despite any company's efforts. Think MySpace. Facebook is already going stale and losing members so if Google can offer a fresh alternative, you better believe that people will be jumping ship.

My programming skills are very limited, but, I assume, there's little Facebook Corp. can do about this. They can make it harder for Google to acquire such data, but, nevertheless, it's just a code available to the end-user and, I'm sure, Google's programmer will find another way to get it.

So you're saying that you're "stealing" the list of *your* own friends? The list that you built up? That's some fine police work there, Lou.

All you have to do is download your data from the Facebook options and get *your* data that way. Then just remove your profile.

Lexcyn said,
All you have to do is download your data from the Facebook options and get *your* data that way. Then just remove your profile.

I removed my profile and a year later I logged back in. My profile was immediately reactivated and all my old information was restored. FB reminds me of the old song Hotel California. "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."

Lexcyn said,
All you have to do is download your data from the Facebook options and get *your* data that way. Then just remove your profile.

I removed mine a few years ago as well, and when I came back it only had a couple of friends (I guess because they never deleted me from their lists).

But yeah if that's the case then that is really creepy.

But if I understand right, this doesn't have anything to do with Google. The extension was developed by someone not working for google, who wanted to be able to import information from different sites, including Facebook, into the Google site. It wasn't designed by Google and it wasn't designed to import the information only from Facebook.

Really only problematic for people that have a billion "eFriends" - Normal people will just take the 5 minutes to add their friends manually on a competing service.

Amarok said,
Really only problematic for people that have a billion "eFriends" - Normal people will just take the 5 minutes to add their friends manually on a competing service.

+1

Google is just cheating and is afraid another of their services other than their search and possibly their email is a flop.

norseman said,
Google is just cheating and is afraid another of their services other than their search and possibly their email is a flop.
...OR... maybe they're trying to make things easier for their users. This IS the computer age after all. Shouldn't things like manually copying data be a thing of the past?

Is someone actually surprised to read that FB does not want to allow Google to take shortcuts with Google+? I mean really... I'd be shocked to hear the opposite and frankly I agree. In the same situation who would allow the concurrency to piggyback their way to the market on themselves?

And as a user I really don't care. Blocking the exportation of the complete friends list carries the benefit of having less unwanted invitations. I for one couldn't care less for Google+.

Oh episode' you're a troll. They spent billions on infrastructure holding onto your list for years. For their OWN data mining, not to have someone come from left-field and decide they're going to leech it to their servers. Hampering and putting a good load I would imagine, causing possible disruptions in their service too.

norseman said,
Oh episode' you're a troll. They spent billions on infrastructure holding onto your list for years. For their OWN data mining, not to have someone come from left-field and decide they're going to leech it to their servers. Hampering and putting a good load I would imagine, causing possible disruptions in their service too.

Without sounding condescending (and I really am trying) -- you don't know what you're talking about.

Facebook has a feature that allows you to import contact list data from Hotmail, Gmail and other online services. Why shouldn't you have the ability to export your friends list?

You talk about FB spending billions on infrastructure, but let's not forget that they are a very profitable business. And I highly doubt the export function would stress their servers -- we're talking about contact data, not hardcore mathematics or algorithms that require high CPU utilization. Browsing a friends photo album would probably use more bandwidth etc.

Does Hotmail prevent you from downloading your contacts into a competitors service such as Gmail? No, it doesn't! I would expect the same portability with social network services.

kizzaaa said,

Without sounding condescending (and I really am trying) -- you don't know what you're talking about.

Facebook has a feature that allows you to import contact list data from Hotmail, Gmail and other online services. Why shouldn't you have the ability to export your friends list?

You talk about FB spending billions on infrastructure, but let's not forget that they are a very profitable business. And I highly doubt the export function would stress their servers -- we're talking about contact data, not hardcore mathematics or algorithms that require high CPU utilization. Browsing a friends photo album would probably use more bandwidth etc.

Does Hotmail prevent you from downloading your contacts into a competitors service such as Gmail? No, it doesn't! I would expect the same portability with social network services.

+1
Only a fanboy would happily give up freedoms and conveniences so that their favorite company (in this case, Facebook) can make more profits.

Would you want someone stealing everything you have put thousands of hours of millions of dollars into? Good on them. First Apple tried to do it with their ping service and now google.

This is why Microsoft has invested smartly into Facebook and made friends with them, not trying to steal their content but working with them. Maybe 'El Goog and Apple can learn a thing here.

norseman said,
Would you want someone stealing everything you have put thousands of hours of millions of dollars into? Good on them. First Apple tried to do it with their ping service and now google.

This is why Microsoft has invested smartly into Facebook and made friends with them, not trying to steal their content but working with them. Maybe 'El Goog and Apple can learn a thing here.

All you are exporting is the list of friends. Facebook didn't build that list, they just gave you a place to store it.

episode said,

All you are exporting is the list of friends. Facebook didn't build that list, they just gave you a place to store it.

Exactly...Its your friend list. You should be able to do with it as you please.

norseman said,
Would you want someone stealing everything you have put thousands of hours of millions of dollars into? Good on them. First Apple tried to do it with their ping service and now google.

This is why Microsoft has invested smartly into Facebook and made friends with them, not trying to steal their content but working with them. Maybe 'El Goog and Apple can learn a thing here.

1+++
I think el goog is just worried that if their social network has to start someone from 0 friends then nobody will use it just like it happened to google wave. This is just foolish because facebook did not try to fish out all of the contacts from Myspace. They put a good product out and then it just cought on with people. I am sure if Google+ is that good, then there is nothing to worry about when it comes to the contacts you left behind.

A good services will catch on regardles and trying to get a cheap easy jump start by stealing the data off of another network is just foolish. Instead they should have made their servies suppor facebook just like msn messenger does.

bottom line, who the hell wants to fragment their social networking. I know I don't. I want my messenger, aol, and facebook contacts be found in whatever services im using regardles of the app. It seems like Google here wants you to use just their app and servies by not allowing full facebook membership support. I will consider using Google+ when I can log in there and see a little facebook icon with all of my friends under it and if I happen to like google+ and faceout of facebook, no pun intended, then so be it. I do not want to log into multiple sevices and keep all those tabs open just to keep up with people and def. dont want to tap on multiple icon apps on my phone just to do the same. I guess google doesn't understand the concept of a hub.

trashoner said,

They put a good product out and then it just cought on with people. .

the word is "caught" your browser likely has some kind of spell checking ability.

sweatshopking said,

the word is "caught" your browser likely has some kind of spell checking ability.

probably using IE

trashoner said,
It seems like Google here wants you to use just their app and servies by not allowing full facebook membership support.
Might seem like that to you but you don't realize that would require BOTH Faceboook and Google to come to an agreement. Google's track record isn't sparkling (see the previous Orkut/Facebook beef) but they still show a MUCH greater commitment to giving users the ability to port their data in and out.

Xerax said,

We both know they won't.
Learn what? That "Competition=Bad, so don't compete"? In that case, I hope Google and Apple never learn that.

norseman said,
Would you want someone stealing everything you have put thousands of hours of millions of dollars into? Good on them. First Apple tried to do it with their ping service and now google.

This is why Microsoft has invested smartly into Facebook and made friends with them, not trying to steal their content but working with them. Maybe 'El Goog and Apple can learn a thing here.

So I guess by your standards, Google shouldn't let Microsoft's WP7 have good access to YouTube, since, you know, Google spent thousands of hours of millions of dollars into it?

user55 said,
Might seem like that to you but you don't realize that would require BOTH Faceboook and Google to come to an agreement. Google's track record isn't sparkling (see the previous Orkut/Facebook beef) but they still show a MUCH greater commitment to giving users the ability to port their data in and out.

Where do you see that commitment? You can't use Google+ as an example because they are the one in need of pulling your data from another service. I can guarantee you won't see an option for moving from Google+ to another network. All of Google import/export features in Gmail are basically the same as any other competing services, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc. Google doesn't want to give up our data anymore than Facebook does.

norseman said,
Would you want someone stealing everything you have put thousands of hours of millions of dollars into? Good on them. First Apple tried to do it with their ping service and now google.

This is why Microsoft has invested smartly into Facebook and made friends with them, not trying to steal their content but working with them. Maybe 'El Goog and Apple can learn a thing here.


Are you saying Facebook paid me money for my information? Because I really cannot remember anything like that ever happening.

The Gunslinger said,

Exactly...Its your friend list. You should be able to do with it as you please.

Well, didn't you get the memo? It seems you signed off on the memo too. By memo, I am referring to the privacy statement.

dagamer34 said,
Yep, it's quite obvious here who Facebook thinks is in control in this relationship.

its kind of like how google wont let bing index all the videos on youtube so that they cant be searched by any other engine.. google did not create those videos yet they control them..

Lachlan said,

its kind of like how google wont let bing index all the videos on youtube so that they cant be searched by any other engine.. google did not create those videos yet they control them..

Eh, not really. This is about letting users (not third parties like Bing) migrate their data in and out of online services as they please. See Google's philosophy here for more: http://www.dataliberation.org

(Althought I do agree Google should let Bing index YouTube, especially when they let other search engines do it).

Lachlan said,

its kind of like how google wont let bing index all the videos on youtube so that they cant be searched by any other engine.. google did not create those videos yet they control them..


When did google stop bing indexing youtube videos? I never visit Bing but I just went there to prove you wrong. http://www.bing.com/videos/sea...&sc=8-7&form=VBREQY Stop spreading lies please
MS has got the same access every other search engine has. Youtube does no restricting although Google may internally have better access to youtube data but thats not different from MS Office using undocumented APIs on Windows.

Remote Sojourner said,

When did google stop bing indexing youtube videos? I never visit Bing but I just went there to prove you wrong. http://www.bing.com/videos/sea...&sc=8-7&form=VBREQY Stop spreading lies please
MS has got the same access every other search engine has. Youtube does no restricting although Google may internally have better access to youtube data but thats not different from MS Office using undocumented APIs on Windows.

Well they are blocking Microsoft from accessing the video metadata, which MS needs in order to release their better high quality app for Windows Phone 7. http://bit.ly/eVCusI

wixostrix said,

Well they are blocking Microsoft from accessing the video metadata, which MS needs in order to release their better high quality app for Windows Phone 7. http://bit.ly/eVCusI

Remote Sojourner status = TOLD! you owe someone an apology.

wixostrix said,

Well they are blocking Microsoft from accessing the video metadata, which MS needs in order to release their better high quality app for Windows Phone 7. http://bit.ly/eVCusI


That's for playing the video, not getting the data for search. Google requires this everywhere otherwise they have no means of monetising Youtube (which has large storage and bandwidth costs). Either you pay for ad-free streaming of Youtube (and presumably there are other terms), or use the flash player which gives Google control. I don't see a problem here.

MrA said,

That's for playing the video, not getting the data for search. Google requires this everywhere otherwise they have no means of monetising Youtube (which has large storage and bandwidth costs). Either you pay for ad-free streaming of Youtube (and presumably there are other terms), or use the flash player which gives Google control. I don't see a problem here.

Did you read even read the article I posted. It doesn't say anything about bandwidth. Small third-party developers don't seem to be having an issues since their are quite a few of them in the marketplace. This has nothing to do with the cost of bandwidth. There is nothing stopping Google from placing ads in their videos, in fact, I'm sure if they were will, Microsoft would have no problem making sure advertisements displayed appropriately within the app.