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Yandex’s social app put on hold as Facebook stands firm on API blocking

When Yandex last week launched Wonder, its “experimental” social aggregation app, the initial excitement it must have brought at the Russian Google did not last long. In fact, Facebook pulled the plug just three hours after Wonder went live by blocking the app from accessing its data.

Facebook noted that the app, which in many ways is similar to the company’s recently launched Graph Search, was in violation with its platform policies in that it perceived Wonder to be a search engine. Yandex then quickly released an official statement in which it argued that Wonder could not be categorised as such because it only browses and collects data exclusively associated with a user’s social connections, and only if the user has expressly granted the app permission to do so. In other words, Wonder fetches and mines only the social media activity of the friends/connections that are in the application user’s social graph.

Wonder Yandex App Facebook API Ban

Image credit: TechCrunch

Yandex and Facebook have been in discussions over the issue since Thursday morning, however according to this newly released official statement from Yandex it appears its efforts to revoke the decision have been wasted:

We discussed the issue with Facebook and it was confirmed that Facebook views the application Wonder as something that violates the Facebook Platform Policies (section I.12) and that the access to Facebook’s Graph API will not be restored.

According to Section I.12, no data obtained from Facebook can be used in any search engine or directory without the company’s written permission. The reason behind Facebook’s decision to revoke our access to their data appears to be that they do consider Wonder to be a search engine, while our understanding of what it is differs from this view.

Wonder’s functioning, in its current state, as well as the quality of user experience it provides, largely depends on the access to Facebook’s Graph API. Since this access was revoked, we decided to put our application on hold for the time being. We will be considering partnership opportunities with other social networks and services to offer our users a richer internet experience via Wonder.

This is just one out of several recent cases where Facebook is denying third-party apps to tap into its friend graph. By gradually establishing what appears to be some kind of data protection iron curtain, Matt McGee of Marketing Land argues that Facebook is essentially going against its own mission statement of creating a “more open and connected world”.

Protecting its data without dissuading developers to create products for the platform, however, is no doubt a delicate and difficult line to tread for the social behemoth. It also raises the important ethical question for the industry as a whole: Who owns your social data? The platforms or the users who feed the data to these platforms in the first place?

As the tagline of that movie goes: “You do not get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies”. Well, you surely do not get to +1 billion without making an additional few.

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Immanuel Simonsen

Research Manager at Webcertain
As the Research Manager of multilingual web marketing agency Webcertain, Immanuel heads up the company’s global market research activities and large content marketing projects. He is the author of several reports and guides, including ‘The Essential Guide to Rel-Alternate-Hreflang’ and ‘The Webcertain Global Search and Social Report 2013’. Apart from being a tutor at the International Marketing School -- teaching online marketing professionals on business opportunities around the globe -- Immanuel is a regular speaker at the International Search Summit, a leading event series dedicated to multilingual search and social media marketing.

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