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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Plaxo Builds Social Graph Export with Facebook - Who Owns the Social Graph Anyways?

It seems that plaxo has built an export feature for use in Plaxo Pulse that is similar to the Linkedin sync but, that works with Facebook. Problem is that the Linkedin export is using OpenSocial where the Plaxo / Facebook is a screen scape / reader that was built without any involvement from Facebook. The reason they couldn't use the Facebook API is that Facebook does not allow for the exporting of email address, but the Plaxo solution will put the user in violation Facebook's TOS which, as found out by Robert Scobie, causes your account to be disabled and the potential of you being banned. As an aside I would be shocked if Facebook reactivates his account after the attention it has received as it would only open the door for everyone (and any company) to do this.

So I see two key issues with this:

1. Who owns the Social Graph? The user has invested countless time in building the network on the platform yet it was the platform that allowed the network to be grown in the first place. It is a difficult issue. From my perspective we really need to embrace the power of community and if at anytime you want to export your work (your social graph) to a new application, platform or site you should be able to do this. It is short sighted for the company to want to hold on and restrict this information, it would be akin to Outlook not letting you export your contact list to another email program. This means that it is the platform that will need to keep their competitive advantage through constant innovation and over deliver value to the user, not an easy task but stopping your users from leaving with the their data is not the correct answer it will only leave a bad taste in users mouthes that will cause more damage in the long run than an easy process to try other things out.

2. Plaxo is building a tool that it putting it's users at risk with Facebook. For those of you that use Plaxo (I do it is a great contact upkeep tool) and have done the Linkedin sync you will realize how easy it would be to miss a message that if you were to do a sync with Facebook you are putting your account at risk. A company should not ever put their users at risk, and it doesn't fly that Facebook needs to be more open as an excuse for building an app that goes against the TOS of the site. Yes, Facebook needs to be more open but Plaxo needs to figure out a way to do this with getting accounts disabled.

So if anything Plaxo has brought to the forefront the issue of ownership of our social graphs and I am sure that this will be debated over 2008 and this is just the tip of the iceberg. It will be an interesting discussion.

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