Documents Reveal How Facebook Sought To Undermine Competitor Vine

By 12/06/2018
Documents Reveal How Facebook Sought To Undermine Competitor Vine

Newly-revealed documents show Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave Facebook execs the go-ahead to sever Vine users’ ability to see if any of their Facebook friends were also using the microvideo platform.

The documents were released yesterday by the U.K. Parliament thanks to data seizures for an ongoing lawsuit between Facebook and former app developer Six4Three, which created an app to search for bikini pictures on Facebook, The Verge reports. Six4Three went out of business after Facebook changed settings that cut off app developers from accessing their users’ friend data.

Documents show that on Jan. 24, 2013, the day Vine went live in the Apple App Store, Facebook exec Justin Osofsky sent an internal email to other Facebook staffers, saying, “Unless anyone raises objections, we will shut down their friends API access today.” (API stands for ‘application programming interface,’ aka a bit of software that lets two applications talk to each other.)

Zuckerberg responded, “Yup, go for it.”

The emails were included in the lawsuit documents as an example of Facebook hamstringing competitors by denying them access to services like friend-finding, The Verge reports. In the past, Facebook has also reportedly blocked users of Twitter, voice communication app Voxer, and text communication app MessageMe from finding their Facebook friends on those services. By cutting off the API capabilities on social media sites that are presumably competitors, Facebook can limit its users’ ‘social graph’ — the map of their online relationships — to just Facebook, instead of allowing them to take those Facebook relationships onto other platforms quickly and easily.

As The Verge points out, Osofsky’s Jan. 24 email also noted that Facebook had “prepared reactive PR,” which could refer to a Facebook blog post published the next day. Though the post didn’t mention Vine specifically, it said there was a small 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.”

Ironically, almost exactly a year after Vine was released, Facebook changed the way it counted video views on its site to include views of Vines posted on Facebook. That tripled its monthly video view count to more than 3.7 billion per month, and propelled Facebook to be the second-largest video sharing site, after YouTube.


Photo by Anthony Quintano