Facebook policy change allows third parties to build competing features

5 Dec 2018

Facebook app on MacBook. Image: bernardojbp/Depositphotos

Facebook is dropping a part of its policy that banned third-party developers from copying its key features.

Facebook is now freely allowing developers to build competitors to the features it offers on its own platform. According to TechCrunch, the company is dropping Platform Policy section 4.1, which states: “Add something unique to the community. Don’t replicate core functionality that Facebook already provides.”

Considering the criticism large tech firms are currently receiving about the dominance of a select few digital firms, the move by Facebook will make the waters less choppy for those developers seeking to build out new features on its platform. 

The right thing to do

The company said: “As part of our ongoing review, we have decided that we will remove this out-of-date policy so that our platform remains as open as possible. We think this is the right thing to do as platforms and technology develop and grow.” It added that the change came as part of a regular, ongoing review process in place at the firm.

While the policy was in force, it affected competitors such as messaging app MessageMe and now-defunct short-form video platform Vine. Facebook shut its access to the Find Friends feature on the platform when Vine’s Twitter-owned application launched.

In April of this year, Facebook restricted parts of its platform following the maelstrom that was the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Restrictions on the Events, Groups, Instagram and Pages APIs were announced, among other new rules. 

Facebook weighed up charging for user data

In another event linked to the developer ecosystem of the company, The Wall Street Journal last month reported that Facebook had previously considered charging developers to access user data.

The information, found in court documents, is part of a lawsuit brought by app developer Six4Three. A spokesperson for the firm told Adweek that the emails cited were internal conversations among employees, noting that it ultimately decided to continue to provide API access to developers at no cost.

Facebook app on MacBook. Image: bernardojbp/Depositphotos

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects