Mike Arrington is Right, Facebook is Wrong

Mike Arrington and I had a sometimes violent disagreement on today’s Gillmor Gang.

The reason we were arguing? Because we both were arguing different things.

Mike Arrington was arguing that Facebook was in the wrong for blocking Google Friend Connect (and therefor I was wrong).

I was arguing that if you 1. Friend me AND 2. Give me your email address that I should be able to put that email address into whatever system I so please, just like when you hand me your business card (and therefor that Arrington was wrong).

Problem is, that it took a bit of yelling and screaming for us to realize we were arguing about different things. During the show I put my phone on mute and took a shower (actually true) and when I came back on I took a different tactic and agreed with Mike on the first issue.

On the second issue he’s still wrong, but we’ll get to argue that one out again some other day.

Truth be told I thought that Google pulled email addresses into Friend Connect. I was wrong. Google doesn’t.

So, Facebook is totally over the top wrong to block Google.

But, lately, Facebook has been on the wrong side of the block button. Whoever runs that button is really hurting Facebook’s brand and not doing Facebook any favors.

So, let’s back up and split this argument into a few pieces and argue about those separately in three groups:

1. Your social graph (IE, the map of who your friends are).
2. Your friends’ info (IE, their email addresses, their birthdays, their relationship status, their political leanings, their gender, their favorite music and activities, and other stuff you’ll find on, say, Facebook’s profile).
3. Your actual data. Say your photos, your videos, your status updates, and your wall posts.

If you’re going to talk about social network portability you MUST keep these three things separate.

Why? Because of user expectations.

So, what are our user expectations around the social graph? Well, Facebook already makes those almost totally public. I can see the social graphs of people who haven’t even friended me. That said, there are a few people who’ve blocked me from seeing who their friends are, but only a handful of people have done that.

How about user expectations around your friends’ info? Well, if you friend me and give me access to your data, you should expect me to use that data, even outside of Facebook. But there are some users who don’t want you to take that data outside of Facebook. Arrington’s one of those.

How about your actual data? User expectations here are far different. We want to have control of our own data, and we don’t expect other users to be able to copy our photos or videos to other places.

So, basically, Mike Arrington and I agree on the social graph. You should be able to take your list of friends, their avatars, and their names to any other social network.

We disagree on our info like email addresses and such. I don’t think we’ll ever agree there.

I believe we agree on the control of our actual data.

How about you? Do you agree with this assessment? Do you get as passionate about this stuff as Mike and I did?

UPDATE: Marc Canter says “I do not compromise” and posted a bunch of pictures of his backyard fence which is most interesting.