by Rory MacDonald
Google’s New Facebook Alternative Sparks Personal Data Liberation War. Along with the latest news on the matter, you’ll find a hot-off-the-press step-by-step guide to extracting your friends’ information from Facebook using Open-Xchange. Now, get out there and enjoy this new found liberation. And by all means, go forth and enjoy YOUR data.
Few of our readers will need telling about Google’s new Facebook alternative. However, the launch of the Google+ has also sparked a war of ideologies within the personal data space. With the new social network being widely pillored for simply offering an identical service to Facebook, just not from Facebook, it appears data freedom is being used as Google’s key differentiator.
Battle Hardened - Google’s Data Liberation Front
Alongside building Google+, a team headed by Subversion developer Brian Fitzpatrick has been working on Google Takeout, a set of tools, which simplify mass export of data from multiple Google products in one go. The development team, which calls itself ‘The Data Liberation Front’, was started by Google four years ago on the basis of CEO Eric Schmidt’s stance:
“How do you be big without being evil? We don’t trap end users. So if you don’t like Google, if for whatever reason we do a bad job for you, we make it easy for you to move to our competitor.”
Google’s stance stands in stark contrast to Facebook, who have begun blocking the popular Facebook Friend Exporter tool. Friend Exporter is a free extension for Chrome, developed by open source enthusiast and Chromium committer Moralfhammed Mansour. The tool was developed last year to let people export their friends’ email addresses, phone numbers and other details as a text file or directly into Gmail in order to allow direct communication outside of Facebook. However, with Google+ presenting a very real threat of mass exodus and a spike in usage, Facebook has now blocked the extension.
“Facebook just removed the emails from their mobile site. They implemented a throttling mechanism that if you visit your ~5 friends in a short period of time, it will remove the email field,” commented Mansour on his Google+ page. “No worries, a new version is in the making … I am bloody annoyed now, because this proves Facebook owns every user’s data on Facebook. You don’t own anything! If I were you, I would riot this to the media outlets again.”
Mansour is not the only person working to liberate your data from Facebook. Open source email and communications software provider OpenXchange are also developing a dedicated Facebook export function for their Social OX module.
Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna
SocialOX is a set of features in Open-Xchange to centralise management of personal information distributed across different systems and services, like address data on Xing or LinkedIn, birthdays on Facebook, various brands of calendar software like Google, Exchange or Lotus.
We contacted Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna, who tells us that the SocialOX tool and, in particular, the Facebook export functionality is currently in beta, requiring a somewhat labourious seven step process. However, he kindly provided us with this basic tutorial:
That’s it: OX.IO to the rescue. Your contact data that you desire, all in one spot…
This newly “merged” address book can then be exported as vCard and imported into whatever you like making your magic address book available wherever you like – no questions asked – by no sugar mountain or paranoid android. :)
Ok, first, to be clear — this is still sort of geeky at the moment, so buyer beware (even though its free)…
1. Allow popups in your browser. Then go to ox.io
2. Click on “Create Account” and do so
3. Click on the link you received in your Email – you’ll be logged into your private OX account immediately.
4. Click cancel on the Wizard screen, you may go back there later from the help menu, instead go to the Mail View (click on the envelope in the top left corner) and click on the “Add Email account…” and add at least that account that you use for communications with the people from your network. NOTE: Your email account must be IMAP – not POP, or it won’t work. Also, your Open-Xchange account will not copy and emails, it just makes that account available inside the Web UI.
5. Optional: Add more Email accounts (must be IMAP). The more Email your Open-Xchange user can harvest for Email addresses and names the more it can overcome the limitations of the API’s.
6. Now we will import your networks and address books. If you only want to import Facebook skip to step 7, otherwise use the import wizard first. Go to “Help (the “?” on the top)->Wizard”. On page 2 you can select from many other services. Don’t do Facebook, this comes last. The more the better.
7. Go to the contacts view (the black figure icon), click on the “Import facebook contacts” button. Click the “—or create a fresh one for your profile” oAuth Account button to allow access of Open-Xchange to your Facebook account. Press “Start” when done.
This will run a while. For each email account we go through each mail folder and use the first 6000 Emails to look for contacts. The more Emails we parse the more of your Facebook friends contacts will have this data. Go do something else and come back later…
At the end of the process the download of the newly merged super address list will start. Import to your liking, in Apple iCal, Gmail/G+, Facebook, Outlook, whatever you like. The data is also in the newly created “Facebook” address book for more exporting or playing pleasure.