One of the most apparent trends in online business over the last few years involves how businesses, and their brands and their ecosystems, interact with other services. We’ve seen a few examples of breakdowns in interaction, like when Apple cut off Google from iOS for its Maps service, only to concede to allowing an app after their homegrown response did not perform. Facebook has been known to do the same to apps – cut them off when they get too close. That’s what it did to a new app called MessageMe.
MessageMe Friends No More (on Facebook)
As David Murphy writes for PC Mag, “Hell hath no fury like a Facebook scorned.” This basically describes Facebook’s attitude towards apps that “share similar feature’s as Facebook’s own apps and services” and also access Facebook. Facebook wants to have complete control over its ecosystem as it continues to monetize and shape the social media platform.
MessageMe, the app in question, launched last week and was meant to be a messaging app. As Nishtha Kanal writes on Tech 2, MessageMe allowed users to “chat with friends, send YouTube videos, voice recordings, and be creative with drawing doodles” across platforms. Sounds like a very useful app to me, and it shot up the iTunes chart soon after release.
Now MessageMe users cannot search for friends through Facebook. Facebook and other large platforms that dominate the web socially are, for marketing concerns, increasingly becoming closed systems in themselves, offering an ecosystem as a solution to all of your personal, social, and marketing needs. There wasn’t much of a warning or even an announcement about the move Facebook made to shut off MessageMe’s access, but reports show that we will hear from MessageMe on Tuesday.
A History of Clashes
Facebook has been involved in this sort of closing off of services for a few years, and so has their competition, to some degree. As Kim-Mai Cutler writes on TechCrunch, “Facebook has long been touchy about providing access to the biggest of its strategic competitors like Google and Twitter.” Facebook has never felt entirely comfortable allowing users of Twitter and Gmail to search for their Facebook friends, nor does it like allowing Twitter users to send updates to Twitter through Facebook.
Even after allowing an app like Voxer to run for about a year on its service, Facebook abruptly decided it was time to shut off its access for getting too close to Facebook’s Graph. Still, this act of shutting off access hasn’t put these apps out of business; they don’t rely on Facebook for growth, they simply had a belief that connecting with the social media giant would be worthwhile in their apps.
A Harmful Pattern or Business as Usual?
One side of me thinks that this trend of putting up fences around brands and companies’ user experiences and ecosystems is the wrong direction to go. I’m a big proponent of an open internet for users, and for businesses. But at the same time, I understand the practical and strategic moves made by Facebook and others when these issues arise.
When an app provides a feature you essentially already have (for better or worse), what’s the point in having two versions of that feature? Not much use for the user, until the better service is cut off. In terms of doing business online, the stability and interconnectedness of a brand experience on Facebook, Twitter, and other popular social media and content marketing venues is attractive and beneficial to businesses large and small. Facebook knows the more time you spend on Facebook means the more time you are exposed to advertising and marketing. The more tools of their own – the tools they control – that they can create, the better for business. Still, something bothers me about closing up access, especially if an app or alternative works better.
What do you think about Facebook’s move to close off MessageMe? Is the move towards closed-off ecosystems good for online marketing and the development of the web?
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