Reduce Your Development Investment on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger

Reduce Your Development Investment on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger

Facebook is going through a redesign with its privacy policy and strategy. The social media giant has started to significantly limit data access to Facebook’s Events, Groups and Pages APIs. It has also shut down part of the Instagram API. This is expected as the company battles scandals with the mess it found itself with the Cambridge Analytica related privacy violations.

But I have a real concern on the broad trajectory: we will begin to have good privacy but that will also guarantee that we will have no tangential competitor to ICT utilities like Facebook. As TechCrunch reports, Facebook has cut out developers and many of them are not happy. The implication is that most apps built on Facebook Corp ecosystems have stopped working optimally.

Without warning, Instagram  has broken many of the unofficial apps built on its platform. This weekend it surprised developers with a massive reduction in how much data they can pull from the Instagram API, shrinking the API limit from 5,000 to 200 calls per user per hour. Apps that help people figure out if their followers follow them back or interact with them, analyze their audiences or find relevant hashtags are now quickly running into their API limits, leading to broken functionality and pissed off users.

People, we would have great privacy but without anyone asking these firms to share, we have lost any element of competition. It does not need to be this way.

All it would confirm is that Instagram has stopped accepting submissions of new apps, just as Facebook announced it would last week following backlash over Cambridge Analytica. Developers tell me they feel left in the dark and angry that the change wasn’t scheduled or even officially announced, preventing them from rebuilding their apps to require fewer API calls.

This would see a massive dislocation in the way the social media world has worked. If Facebook is forced to keep all the data it has to itself, it simply means that a good part of the “planet” would be out of the reach of many digital entities. This is a huge risk to many companies that have invested to build businesses on Facebook Corp’s platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Messenger.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook (source: AOL)

As they trim these APIs and cut-out access to data, most apps would lose what have made them great. As that happens, the best is to wait and save your resources because Facebook could come out of this and shut down critical interfaces to its ecosystems. Provided users are still posting and sharing data on its platform, Facebook would be fine. So, the real pains would be to developers and companies that depend on Facebook data to function. I know that many Nigerian banks are building on Messenger APIs. We do not know how far Facebook would go on this redesign.

Facebook would be fine. It has learnt a major lesson. I expect the guys running WhatsApp [Facebook Corp’s best product] to help. The WhatsApp team has been great, providing a platform people like to use to get things done.

The first 5 years of Facebook was under the control of Main Street algorithm. The last three years have been under the control of Wall Street algorithm. Under the latter, it became a den for entities with unlimited credit limit in their credit cards. They out-bided all and Facebook loved them. Today, they have poisoned the minds of Main Street and Facebook is worried. Making amends by prioritizing family and friends posts on feeds was a response to fix a challenged product.

All Together

As an aggregator, making it possible for Facebook to have legal rights to restrict all its data would harm competition and the broad industry. But the company has no choice after the mess of allowing a 3rd party to access data of about 80 million users. As we pile on the company, Facebook will make decisions. But at the end, those decisions would hurt the ecosystems. Because of its positions, the impacts would be marginal since there is no clear alternative to it.

But in terms of competition [not the direct version], that is lost. Your fintech app, game apps, etc, may have to wait for Facebook Corp to do it by itself since it cannot afford to share data that would enable an independent company to provide those services. Always remember the very reason why Facebook won MySpace was the ability to allow others to connect into its ecosystem via plugins which were not possible in then MySpace.

My suggestion is this: let us push Facebook to tighten privacy but not to use this mess to systematically cut-out the world from itself. Doing so would make it more dominant since in the near future anything Facebook does not do would not be available, and when it does that, it would not be worried that another person could do it better.


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