Mountain View, California — Google and Facebook have never been all-out rivals, but with the new turn of events is the latest chapter in the baffling spat between the Silicon Valley biggies, apparently appears as though Google is starting to feel the pressure mounting from Facebook, and this time Google has set the ball rolling over user contact data. With the latest update for Google’s Nexus S and Nexus One Android Gingerbread, the search engine giant is now blocking Facebook users from loading their friend contacts to their phone’s address book.
A recent Gingerbread update for the Nexus S and Nexus One adds some new features to the smartphones, but one thing that is being removed on the Nexus S is the ability to merge a Facebook phone directory with the smartphone’s contacts application. But Google otherwise claims the block is because Facebook won’t let Android users export contacts from the phone.
“For Nexus S users who downloaded the Facebook app from Android Market, Facebook contacts will no longer appear to be integrated with the Android Contacts app,” Google said in a statement. “Since Facebook contacts cannot be exported from the device, the appearance of integration created a false sense of data portability.”
So far, users were given the option to synchronize contact information from their Facebook friends list, so it would also appear in their list of numbers stored on their phone. So, if your Facebook contacts are important to you, then you may want to skip the update for now until the issue is resolved.
Earlier, when the Nexus One and the Nexus S were first introduced, they authorized users with the ability to “Sync Friends with Contacts“. In other words, when Nexus handset users downloaded the Facebook App, the details of their Facebook friends, including their phone numbers (where available) were stored in the Google address book.
The Android developer is removing the integration feature from “Nexus S and future lead devices”, which means for now, very few Android users will be affected. The move could pressure Facebook to review its policies on sharing contact data.
But, Google stated that Facebook contact data will continue to appear within the Facebook app. “Like all developers on Android, Facebook is free to use the Android contacts API to truly integrate contacts on the device, which would allow users to have more control over their data,” the company said.
Here is a classification of the three major features in the release:
- No more Facebook integration. Before now, you could use the Facebook App to pull your friends’ info directly to into your address book, just like you can on iPhone.
- WebM support. This is an open video format that loads easily on mobile devices.
- NFC updates. For the Nexus S there are some new NFC options for developers, including an API that will let apps write to NFC tags. This is useful for sharing information between two devices.
A user’s contacts from Google as well as from Facebook were, therefore, very well consolidated with each other, making it is easy for users to access their friends’ details whenever they wanted to.
Last year, a similar controversy erupted when Google blocked Facebook users from searching their Gmail contacts for new friends on the social media network.
The dogfight between Google and Facebook on this issue dates back to November when Google amended its Contacts API to require other platforms to reciprocate Google’s philosophy of open data exchange. This affected Facebook the most, as Facebook does not allow other platform users to import their Facebook contacts automatically as Google does. Facebook later posted a link in its “Find Friends” tab where users can download their Google contacts onto their hard drives and import them into Facebook in a single click.
“We continue to believe that reciprocity (the expectation that if information can be imported into a service it should be able to be exported) is an important step toward creating a world of true data liberation — and encourage other websites and app developers to allow users to export their contacts as well,” Google said Wednesday.
While this is a problem of power-struggle between Google and Facebook, and should have been sorted out professionally by the two organizations, it is the users who will miss out on the convenience of having their mobile and social apps interconnecting.
It now remains to be seen how Facebook will react to this move.