Yandex halts Wonder after Facebook cuts off data

Facebook says Yandex violated part of terms of service regarding use of data in a search engine

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
January 30, 2013
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Facebook has become awfully stringy with its all-important friend data lately, cutting off a number of apps that it has cited as having violated different parts of its terms of service. So far, Twitter's new VIne app, Yandex's new app called Wonder  and mobile communications service Voxer have all been stopped from accessing said data.

Now comes word that, after speaking to Facebook and discovering that access to the data would not be restored, Yandex has decided to halt development on Wonder, at least for the time being.

When trying to download Wonder in the App Store, users instead see this message:

"New users cannot sign up anymore as Facebook blocked Wonder from accessing its API. Users who has already been signed up can still ask questions but their Facebook data will not be updated. Instagram, Foursquare and Twitter data are being updated."

A Yandex spokesperson issued the following statement to VatorNews, confirming that the app had indeed been shut down:

"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 Since this access was revoked, we decided to put our application on hold for the time being.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."

The idea behind Wonder is to allow users to ask questions regarding their friends' social network data, a service that is awfully similar to Facebook's recently released Graph Search feature. This is how Yandex described what the app does on its blog:

"To help ourselves retrieve interesting bits from our social networking space, we have built an app for iPhone and iPod Touch that can respond to our questions using the information about our friends’ activity on Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and Twitter – places they visited, music they listened to, or news they read – and called it Wonder," Yandex wrote.

The app essentially takes data from Facebook, and the other social networks, as Graph Search, so it should not come as too much of a shock that Facebook would stop giving its data to another search engine it obviously sees as a competitor.

Facebook wrote a blogpost last week, in which it attempted to clarify its position regarding its platform policies.

"The vast majority of developers" who use the data to build social apps and games, will not have a problem, Facebook saud. 

"Our goal is to provide a platform that gives people an easy way to login to your apps, create personalized and social experiences, and easily share what they’re doing in your apps with people on Facebook. This is how our platform has been used by the most popular categories of apps, such as games, music, fitness, news and general lifestyle apps."

The problems occur with "a much smaller number of apps that are using Facebook to either replicate our functionality or bootstrap their growth in a way that creates little value for people on Facebook." And those are the apps that will be cut off from using Facebook's data.

The underlying message of all of this seems to be: if Facebook sees you as a competitor, you better watch out because you will be cut off.

Facebook could not be reached for comment.

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