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January 29, 2013

Facebook Restricts Access and Functionality to API, Blocks Vine and Wonder Apps

By Jody Ray Bennett, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Although Facebook (News - Alert) has been touting the benefits of Facebook Login as an option for user registration across the Web, it recently blocked two apps that were capitalizing on Facebook's integrated data availability.

Twitter (News - Alert) and Facebook have become somewhat rivals in the modern social media landscape. Last July, Twitter blocked Facebook's photo sharing app, Instagram, from using its API to locate friends with Twitter accounts via the service. This week, after Twitter announced its acquisition of Vine, a video sharing app, Facebook started blocking Vine from its “find people” function for finding friends with Facebook accounts.

Furthermore, Facebook also blocked a new app from Yandex (News - Alert), a Russian search engine, called Wonder app, which offers a way for users to search social data feeds. Perhaps not coincidentally, Facebook just announced its “third pillar,” Graph Search, earlier this month. 

Image via Shutterstock

Yandex confirmed that Facebook is blocking Wonder app. A spokesperson explained that, “As of now, any new users trying to sign up to Wonder with their Facebook account receive a notification by Facebook: 'An error occurred. Please try again later.'” Users who had already signed up via Facebook will no longer receive updated data.

On its developer blog, Facebook published a post to clarify its policies. The new rule (I. 10) has a requirement for reciprocity, stating, “If you use and Facebook APIs to build personalized or social experiences, you must also enable people to easily share their experiences back with Facebook.” The rule appears to be attempting to keep all traffic and social activities firmly embedded in Facebook's news feed.

It's no secret that companies that provide data through APIs can restrict or otherwise limit how their APIs are used, although this has traditionally been done to prevent abuse. Now, companies seem to be imposing limits purely to maintain a competitive advantage. There have been many examples of this over the last few years, including Facebook blocking Apple’s Ping social network in 2010, and Apple refusing to approve Google (News - Alert) Voice for iOS. A number of prominent people have commented on this practice, calling out Facebook and others for changing the rules of their APIs purely in pursuit of greater profits.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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