Facebook Poke recently launched as a direct competitor to Snapchat. Snapchat is a hugely popular app that lets users send pictures that self destruct after viewing.
I am pretty impressed by Facebook’s ability to see an interesting idea and replicate it in a short time, 12 days to be exact. It shows that the hacker spirit is truly alive at Hacker Way. Also Facebook is clearly well within its rights to see an interesting idea in the social space and replicate it.
The problem is however that if an App uses the Facebook SDK than Facebook has access to an unprecedented amount of data about the app. It is one thing knowing that an app is doing well by observing the charts it is quite another having deep knowledge of the social and retention behavior within the app. Using the Facebook SDK, they could extrapolate:
- How often people open Snapchat
- How many friends they invite
- How many of those friends chose to download the app.
- How retentive the users are.
- How often people post to Facebook from the app (Snapchat didn't have this feature but many other apps do)
It seems that in the last month or so Snapchat has removed the Facebook SDK completely. If you read their wikipedia page it says:
Snapchat can find friends on Facebook who are Snapchat users, to add to its contact listOther reviews on the Internet also verify this functionality existed. Additionally if you look at Appdata for Snapchat, only 1 week ago they had a 100k Facebook DAU, but that has plummeted to 10k:
So clearly Snapchat realized the issue with using the Facebook SDK when Facebook was planning to directly compete.
It is true that the Facebook SDK is given for free so one might argue it is within Facebook’s rights to look at all the data. But I do think that Facebook gets a lot from its SDK partners, it gets data posted to the FB stream, it also gets to establish itself more deeply as the social fabric of the web. Also it is a continual reminder to signup and use Facebook.
One way Facebook could solve this problem is to have a strong Chinese Wall between the data it collects in the platform and the product team. This would give confidence to the SDK partners that by using the SDK they weren’t compromising their position to Facebook.
Access to customer-level account data may be granted on a strict need-only basis to employees who require the specific access to perform their jobs. Employees requesting access must explain why they need the access, demonstrate familiarity with the access policy and agree to its terms and conditions, and receive approval before they can access the data.Facebook already gives out data on its publishers, like the fact that we can tell DAUs and MAUs of Facebook apps is a level of transparency that would have been unheard of before the Facebook platform. This transparency has been good for the market on the whole as it has sped up the pace of innovation. If Facebook used only the data publicly given on its publishers to make product decisions I think that would be reasonable, but having access to deeper data from the market is unfair on its partners.