Why Google Is Unfriending Facebook

The battle over who has the most data is coming to a head today. Google is fighting back after Facebook started offering users workarounds that allow Facebook users to import their contacts from Gmail (because Google had blocked API access to this function a few days ago). Gmail is putting explicit warning messages up when people try to import their contacts into Facebook. This may not sound like a huge deal but it’s a data play that is going to have a big impact on the future of both companies.

Contact List Importing?! Who Cares?

Fast forward one year and you’ll see Facebook trying to beat Google at it’s core: search. In order to do this, Facebook needs a lot of data. It needs to know more than just what’s happening on websites, blogs, and in the news. In order to do this, it needs to get as many people involved as possible. Enter your list of contacts. Once Facebook gets your entire list of contacts it will be easier for the social network to start showing you what your friends are searching for, buying, etc. In other words, search will be a more social experience.

Social is where Google wants to bring search too. However, they don’t want Facebook to be the king of social search. As usual, Google wants to be the go-to place for any kind of search. While their seat at the top is cemented for now, there could be cracks in the Google throne in the coming months and years. These cracks are the events like Facebook offering to enhance their experience if users import their contacts into Facebook.

The Battle Is Getting Dirty

The gloves have come off and Google is out swinging. Take a look at what Google is telling users who would like to download their Gmail contacts’ information and import the data into Facebook (first spotted by Digitizor):

Here’s the text from the image above if you can’t quite read it:

Trap my contacts now

Hold on a second. Are you super sure you want to import your contact information for your friends into a service that won’t let you get it out?

Here’s the not-so-fine print. You have been directed to this page from a site that doesn’t allow you to re-export your data to other services, essentially locking up your contact data about your friends. So once you import your data there, you won’t be able to get it out. We think this is an important thing for you to know before you import your data there. Although we strongly disagree with this data protectionism, the choice is yours. Because, after all, you should have control over your data.

Of course, you are always free to download your contacts using the export feature in Google Contacts.

This public service announcement is brought to you on behalf of your friends in Google Contacts:

[_] Register a complaint over data protectionism. (Google will not record or display your name or email address.)

[_] Proceed with exporting this data. I recognize that once it’s been imported to another service, that service may not allow me to export it back out.

Select one or more options. Cancel and go back

What It Means

Yes, that’s Google explicitly warning you that your contacts information will be effectively trapped inside Facebook without the ability to re-export the data, and giving you the option to register a formal complaint over data protectionism (to what end remains unclear).

For the record, they’re still letting you go on with exporting the data if you please. Which unfortunately means a lot of Facebook users will probably do exactly that before reading the warning and understanding the message Google is trying to convey.