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Facebook To App Developers: Good Idea, Now Stop Using Our API 158

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-ideas dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In what seems to be a recurring theme with Facebook as the social networking giant adds features, competing apps that use Facebook integration risk being cut off due to the terms of service surrounding the API. For example, 'Voxer CEO Tom Katis told AllThingsD that the company got an email on Thursday saying that Facebook wanted to hold a phone call to discuss possible violations of a section of the company’s terms of service. The section in question centers around the use of Facebook’s social graph by competing social networks.' Similarly, 'Within hours of Twitter launching its Vine video-sharing application on Thursday, Facebook has cut off access to Vine’s "find people" feature, which used to let Vine users find their Facebook friends using the Vine application.' You have to ask yourself: is it really worth developing an app that integrates with, or worse runs completely on Facebook's platform?"
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Facebook To App Developers: Good Idea, Now Stop Using Our API

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  • What's the point? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jaymz666 (34050) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @04:32PM (#42730815)

    Why does Facebook even offer an API to developers if any time an app becomes popular they block them?

    • by radiumsoup (741987) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @04:34PM (#42730851)

      aaaaand... we're done in one.

      • If people still asking why ... ask them to look at North Korea.

        Facebook is a walled garden, and the "walled" part of a walled garden is just that, WALLED.

        Which means, FB can do whatever it likes in its domain, just like the North Korean government can do whatever it likes within the sovereignty of North Korea.

        They are accountable to nobody, and they do not have to answer to anything.

    • Re:What's the point? (Score:5, Informative)

      by trparky (846769) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @04:35PM (#42730859) Homepage
      You could say the same thing about Apple. There were many features that independent app developers made that later were killed off and made a part of iOS.
      • Really? Name some that where "killed off" Most features that the indies developed where bought out by Apple either in concept or with their staff being hired at Apple

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mergers_and_acquisitions_by_Apple [wikipedia.org]

        Or do you mean the BS lip flapping over "Widgets" still when the concept was clearly part of the early builds of the Apple OS but not in the way it became with OS X.

        • by greg1104 (461138)

          There are lists of rendered obsolete apps for Lion [nytimes.com], Mountain Lion [cultofmac.com], and IOS6 [mashable.com] in a few minutes of searching. I'm most amused by how Instapaper started on the iPhone, became a widely lauded app, moved to Android, and then the core idea was integrated into IOS6 as Safari's Offline Reading feature. I suspect it's only the Android users who are keeping the company viable now.

          • Why point at Apple when Microsoft is the grandfather of all this mantra of "hey, great idea! oh look, we built that into windows now!"

            And then of course, one could say the same thing of Linux - free Linux did away with the market for SCO Unix, severely damaged Solaris, did worse to IRIX. All rendered obsolete or near obsolete because of Linux. With KVM in the kernel and Xen available free as well, eventually VMWare might find itself killed off as well.

            No, operating systems these days are bundles of programs

        • WindowShadeX
          http://www.unsanity.com/haxies/wsx [unsanity.com]

          Some of us power users _like_ having control over the bloated window title and dislike its lack of useful functionality such as the inability to "roll up" -- something that EVERY window manager should include out-of-the-box; thankfully some of the *nix Window Managers actually respect power users.

          I've given up on Microsoft actually having a clue about useful GUI design after their Metrosexual UI; Apple is slowly heading that way by hiding essential UI elements s

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            Haxies? Really? They're not built with public APIs, and they inject arbitrary code into running applications. And you wonder why they break regularly?

            • by tepples (727027)

              They're not built with public APIs

              If you claim that these tools are implemented incorrectly, then what public APIs should they be using to accomplish the same goal?

              • by dgatwood (11270)

                There aren't any. That's why they're using hacks. Not every possible goal is necessarily achievable through legitimate, supportable means.

                There are exactly two ways to do what they're doing legitimately: file bugs and hope Apple gives you an API for doing it and/or adds the feature to the OS, or get a job at Apple and add the feature to the OS yourself. All other approaches are inherently high-risk.

                Either way, injecting your own threads into a running application and using those threads to binary-patch

                • There are exactly two ways to do what they're doing legitimately: file bugs and hope Apple gives you an API for doing it

                  I'd recommend that they do so alongside whatever workarounds they're currently using. This would let the developers start each release note with "Updated our workaround for Mac OS X bugs #X, #Y, and #Z", which would at least inform the users of who is ultimately responsible for the breakage by failing to address those bugs.

      • There were more efficient functions in the deep code which werent exposed to the outside world. Internal developers could write more efficient applications than 3rd party.

        Limiting the scope of an external API is often done to improve testing and documentation. Too wide an interface is harder to support.
      • What features were "killed off" by Apple in a sense of withdrawing the public API from a third-party developer?

        Buying them out is a different thing, since it doesn't prevent someone else from writing an app that does the same thing. It might be pointless once the feature is in the core OS, but then again, who's to say that a third-party app still can't do it better?

    • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @04:37PM (#42730891) Homepage

      Because they want an R&D division to come up with profitable new ideas for them?

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      So someone else can take all the risk of testing out a new idea, while Facebook gets to reap all the rewards when they integrate it later.

      • So someone else can take all the risk of testing out a new idea, while Facebook gets to reap all the rewards when they integrate it later.

        don't like it? invent your own billion user social networking system.

    • by Synerg1y (2169962)
      To farm ideas from the community?
    • Why does Facebook even offer an API to developers if any time an app becomes popular they block them?

      If you can get suckers to develop for a platform that you can shove them off to drown at any time, it ensures that you can buy their assets at firesale prices and face minimal challenges integrating them into your service, since they are already API compatible!

      Perfectly sensible on Facebook's part, it's the sanity of the people who use the API that you have to worry about...

    • by Luthair (847766)
      Except that doesn't appear to be the case, both applications are obviously using the api for something strictly prohibited. Find some sympathetic users that have been cut off for that reason then come make the claim
    • It's not just Facebook. All web sites are giving each other crap about people linking and embedding their content. Twitter is whining about getting cut of because of Vine is crocodile tears. They did the same to Facebook owned Instagram just a few months back. This is Facebook playing by Twitters rules. The web used to be about linking and combining each others strong points, but those days are over now. Companies seem to think that compatibility with others will be their downfall and anyone linking to thei

    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      Saves them the cost of having the research and design new ideas themselves.
      They just wait for somebody to spend a lot of money designing, testing and building an idea, then cut off their access and copy it.
      I call this the "iOS" business model.

  • Obviously not.

  • You have to ask yourself: is it really worth developing an app that integrates with, or worse runs completely on Facebook's platform?"

    If Facebook pays me: Sure.

  • Um, DUH? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @04:35PM (#42730871) Homepage

    Why would you ever design a product that's completely and utterly dependent on a service provided by someone else, especially someone else who you view as a competitor or who may down the road view you as a competitor, without an iron-clad, air-tight contract guaranteeing exactly what services they'll provide you and providing scorched-earth-level penalties for their failure to provide service according to the agreed-upon terms? Anything less is pretty much a guarantee that they'll pull the rug out from under you as soon as they think it'll be to their advantage. I'm not a business type or some super startup guru, just a lowly techie, but even I can figure that one out. Gleh, what do they teach in school these days? That the Universe is all rainbows and unicorns and that everybody plays nice all the time?

    • Re:Um, DUH? (Score:5, Informative)

      by icebike (68054) on Tuesday January 29, 2013 @04:45PM (#42731007)

      The thing is, there was never a need for Voxer or Vine to tie into facebook in the first place. Facebook provides nothing to either app.
      I've seen this a sort of mentality a hundred times on apps in the Android Play store. Diet apps, health apps, personal finance apps, all tying into Facebook, which is arguably the last place you want apps sharing private information.

      These developers just arbitrarily toss that crap in to be part of the in-crowd.

      • The idea was that you would go into Vine, Vine would search your facebook profile for friends of yours who were also using Vine and add them to Vine's friend list for you. That is providing real functionality. Now you have to manually search for and enter each of your friends one by one. So no, they aren't just jumping on the bandwagon, they are using the information from the Facebook API in a way that is so incredibly obvious that the fact that it is blocked makes you wonder what the hell the API was su

        • by icebike (68054)

          Except that nobody wants to exchange vine recordings with all their "friends" on facebook, most of which most people hardly know.

          People want to send Vine movies to a FEW people, who you ALREADY have in your phone's contacts and address book. Nobody wants to receive vine movies from just anyone.

          There is no value in that linkage.

        • The idea was that you would go into Vine, Vine would search your facebook profile for friends of yours who were also using Vine and add them to Vine's friend list for you. That is providing real functionality. Now you have to manually search for and enter each of your friends one by one. So no, they aren't just jumping on the bandwagon, they are using the information from the Facebook API in a way that is so incredibly obvious that the fact that it is blocked makes you wonder what the hell the API was supposed to be fore in the first place.

          From Facebook's perspective, the API is supposed to make being on Facebook more valuable and, therefore, help to retain users. Facebook's main asset is isn't user base. Facebook has the users, other sites don't and Facebook would like to keep it that way. Marketing to those users is how Facebook makes its money.

          What you are describing is a migration tool. Once your Facebook friends have been moved to your Vine friends list, Vine doesn't need Facebook anymore and will be competing for those user's attent

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          the _idea_ for vine is to use facebook for marketing vine.

          that's also 100% of "why would it be worthwhile to develope a facebook dependent app?". fact is, most of them don't depend on fb - but they depend on using fb for marketing...

        • by Bogtha (906264)

          Basically, Facebook's lock-in is your social graph, and they will fight tooth and nail to stop competitors from letting you export this from Facebook to elsewhere. It's been in the T&Cs since they first had an API.

      • by greg1104 (461138)

        The thing is, there was never a need for Voxer or Vine

        You could have stopped here.

    • by hsmith (818216)
      If you don't have a SLA and you aren't paying for it - probably isn't the best idea to build your entire business model around it.
    • Those small dependent fishes that feed upon the big sharks leftovers come to mind.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Why would you ever design a product that's completely and utterly dependent on a service provided by someone else

      Because that's where the users are. Facebook has, what, a billion users? If you can shoehorn into some of those, there's opportunity.

      If they go it alone, they'd have to build up all of those users on their own. They're just chasing the money.

      I don't disagree that they run the risk of being screwed by Facebook, but that's hardly new in the tech industry -- Microsoft has taken other products and

    • Why would you ever design a product that's completely and utterly dependent on a service provided by someone else, especially someone else who you view as a competitor or who may down the road view you as a competitor, without an iron-clad, air-tight contract guaranteeing exactly what services they'll provide you and providing scorched-earth-level penalties for their failure to provide service according to the agreed-upon terms?

      Probably because they assume that "on down the road" will be at least a few months, and companies don't seem to be thinking more than a few months ahead. Maybe that's just me, because I still can't see how Twitter makes any sense from a business standpoint. I can't believe they're still going. Evidently they're making money hand over fist. Obviously common sense is somehow the enemy of money when it comes to businesses that do things online with social crap.

    • by devitto (230479)

      Instagram.

      Help the gorilla, but before they squish you, sell your technology (and preferably patents).

    • Many many people, and therefor companies, are under the delusion that business is fair. Facebook would never do them wrong, hell they gave me an API right? They ignore what business practices are at the level of Facebook. It's parasitic at worst, thuggery most of the time, and the occasional tip to the waiter when things are just right.

      It's really really hard to explain this to people that are brought up without the ability to see what is actually happening, but rather rely on voices to tell them what th

    • by timeOday (582209)

      Why would you ever design a product that's completely and utterly dependent on a service provided by someone else...?

      And why do people ask rhetorical questions without at least considering the most obvious answer?

      Because there is only one facebook. One ebay. One Microsoft Windows. People don't dance with the devil because they're stupid, they do it because he owns the dance hall and it's either that or sit out in the cold. Even if you are snuffed out in the end, you may still have had more success (

      • by Todd Knarr (15451)

        But am I getting more success? I put a lot of time and effort and money into creating the product and setting up the business. And just when I'm beginning to see a return on that investment, that's when I'm most likely to get cut off. So I'm now out all that investment, and while I may have recouped some of it I'm probably looking at a dead loss of at least 50% of my investment. I would've been better off taking the money and putting it in a 12-month CD.

        If the devil owns the dance hall and I know he's going

    • Why would you ever design a product that's completely and utterly dependent on a service provided by someone else, especially someone else who you view as a competitor or who may down the road view you as a competitor, without an iron-clad, air-tight contract guaranteeing exactly what services they'll provide you and providing scorched-earth-level penalties for their failure to provide service according to the agreed-upon terms?

      So, wait, is your question to Facebook app devs, or Windows application developrs?

      • Windows applications are not "completely and utterly dependent on a service provided by someone else" if the developer makes sure to include Wine in the test matrix.
    • Why would you ever design a product that's completely and utterly dependent on a service provided by someone else.

      But this happens all the time in all areas of engineering and business. It's not a bad business model at all. People that base their business model on getting oil from OPEC have gotten rich beyond your dreams doing it, and they don't get 'scorched earth' contracts either (unless they're the US government).

      The problem is that the service provider should know better than scare away mediators of its services. Especially Facebook, who is no OPEC and people can live just fine without it.

    • Well, moreso because a few people made bank in the apple app store. The same reason millions of people spend money in Vegas, app development on closed ecosystems is a gambler's game.

  • Most anyone running a business should know to diversify their product offering. Relying on a single platform for Your product is dooming yourself to failure. Relying on a single API, which you don't control, to run your business, is an even bigger mistake.
  • In prison, "work" is the best possible approximation of real work but it is not real work with real responsibilities or control, and there is not real pay and conditions.

    Making an "application" based on a digital prison is an approximation of a real app but based on a false foundation. There is no real control or security over the platform.

  • What exactly is the advantage to the developer?
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      What exactly is the advantage to the developer?

      new users. it's a promotion tool. that's what the social aspect is in 95% of fb apps.

  • by mosb1000 (710161)

    You have to ask yourself: is it really worth developing an app that integrates with, or worse runs completely on Facebook's platform?

    Everybody's on Facebook, so it's much easier for your users to find their friends if your app is integrated with Facebook.

  • As if there was any question?
  • You have to ask yourself: is it really worth developing an app that integrates with, or worse runs completely on Facebook's platform?

    No, you don't. The answer should be obvious. It's not worth it.

  • I don't think Facebook would be able to block automatic loading of pages (using the user's current cookies) followed by scraping. An API just makes it much easier to get the data, but you can still scrape whatever they won't let you use.

    • Let's use a game programming analogy. Say you're trying to extract information from a game for a console that has four tiled graphics planes. Each week, the game's program is updated through the network, and the layout of the tile textures and the map on screen and in the console's graphics memory changes subtly. So you can't just scrape the info by hardcoding addresses or tile numbers in graphics memory. Even which things are placed on each of the four graphics planes changes, as the console supports arbit [emubase.de]
  • It's really handy for a social network to have an API for login purposes alone. I have a site that sees quite a bit of traffic and the "Log in with [Social Network]" feature is useful for casual users. Facebook has always been a pain in the ass with their API. They make unannounced changes every so often that break login functionality. Twitter's API on the other hand, has always worked just fine.
    • It's really handy for a social network to have an API for login purposes alone.

      For login purposes alone, OpenID would work, and that's what Google, AOL, Yahoo!, and Ubuntu use. Any web site can act as a relying party to let users log in through these providers without signing a long-term agreement, unlike with Facebook and Twitter that need an API key.

  • If their API (which I have not seen) lets see more than one in-link or out-link deep, then a crawler could traverse much of the total FB friend network. Their terms of service appear to prohibit crawling. They ASK the app just operate on the user and immediate friends at hand.
  • I know that there's this other social networking site called Google +, but hasn't FB already achieved a mass worthy of the attention of anti-trust regulators? This is the sort of action that got Microsoft and lately Google into trouble. Or does one need to pass a certain threshold of dominance to qualify as an evil monopoly?

  • Facebook Integration is intended to add to new things to facebook, or add some features to your sites from facebook such as authentication, adding like/comment type functionality, etc. I don't believe they ever wanted people to utilize the API to display facebook content on other sites or data mine the information just to provide an alternative interface to the same content. Facebook integration is great, it does all kinds of things and they have been pretty good with their API so far. A few peopl
  • ponemon, pokemon :)... looks the same to me

  • That's all I had to say.

  • by Wokan (14062)

    No. Didn't you read the subject?

...when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. - Fred Brooks, Jr.

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