My 11/14/10 Missoulian column
Believe it or not, it’s been two months since I mentioned Google and Facebook in the same column. Time for the drought to break.
The latest news is a kerfuffle between the two corporations over customers accessing their own data and is a natural outgrowth of the businesses’ tremendous size and growth rates.
Both companies want to stay No. 1 in their respective businesses – Facebook has north of 500 million users, while Google’s search market share is absolutely dominant – and move into each other’s territory.
The root of the spat is the ease (or not) of importing and exporting e-mail contacts into user accounts on each others’ systems.
This argument started when Google decided to block Facebook’s method of allowing new users to easily import Google contacts into their Facebook account.
New users of Facebook could point and click in their new profile and instantly discover which of their Google contacts were on Facebook and “friend” them. Facebook was savvy in knowing this might make new users feel right at home and get them to stay with the service.
But last week, Google cut off that easy import. Facebook has never offered the same easy import to Google e-mail and “Buzz” users, Google’s nascent social network.
Google evidently felt that they might be losing users to Facebook over that feature and losing users who might stay with Google and take up Buzz instead.
And so that easy Facebook import of contacts doesn’t work anymore. Google says they cut Facebook off in the name of “data reciprocity”: If the data don’t go both ways, forget it.
Google has been criticized in the past for locking in customer data, so this struck some in the tech news world as a bit of hypocrisy.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Early last week, Facebook offered a way around Google’s block. It requires an extra step of downloading your Gmail contacts to your PC first and then uploading them to Facebook.
Google was not amused. And there’s no way for Google to block Facebook’s new method, because Google would have to block all data exports for all users, something they’re not willing to do.
But it brings up another point: it used to be that high-tech businesses made it difficult to leave their service by making it difficult to get your data out. That’s not usually the case anymore.
More on that next week.
This week in Mac Q & A: Eject a Stuck CD