Facebook thinks that being unfriended is a "negative experience" for users, and they only want to allow positive experiences (ex: no "dislike" button). It's fine that they don't offer this feature, but I don’t think it’s right of them to shut down every 3rd party app that does, nor do I think it’s in their own best interest.
Why Does Anyone Need To Know Who Unfriends Them?
- Sometimes it’s an accident, and they want to ask the person if they meant to unfriend them
- Sometimes Facebook has glitches, and people get unfriended unintentionally
- Sometimes friends are struggling with life, and them deactivating their account may be a sign that they need help
- Sometimes people play online games and they keep friends as part of their game groups, so like to know if someone has left their group by unfriending them
- Sometimes people just like to know why Friend X is no longer appearing in their news feed!
None of these reasons seems particularly bad or negative, do they? It seems unreasonable for Facebook to assume it knows better than users what they want. Especially when this functionality is only available to people who specifically seek it out and install an app to inform them. It’s not like random users would be shocked and surprised to suddenly find out that someone unfriended them.
Facebook Shuts Down Unfriending Apps
Facebook has a history of trying to shut down any application that offers users the ability to know who unfriends them. For example, http://unfriendfinder.net/ was a popular tool that had to shut down. And recently, they told me that Social Fixer could no longer offer this feature. For now, the site at http://who.deleted.me still works, but trying to share it on Facebook fails because they’ve marked it as malicious.
What grounds do they have to demand that these apps shut down? It’s not a legal matter – offering these features is not breaking any kind of law. Instead, they say that developers are breaking their Terms of Service. Specifically, section 1.3 of the Platform Policy, which states:
“You must not circumvent (or claim to circumvent) our intended limitations on core Facebook features and functionality.”
Since Facebook specifically doesn’t offer this feature, neither can anyone else. If you break their ToS, then you may not get a lawsuit, but you might get:
- Your personal account removed from Facebook
- Your permission to access Facebook at all revoked
- Any Page, Group, etc that you’ve setup to promote your app may be removed
- Your web site may be marked as malicious, so anyone trying to post a link to your tool will not be able to do so on Facebook
So, while we may not be doing anything illegal, we may effectively be shut out from Facebook, the very site we are trying to improve. And we won’t be able to spread the word about our app on Facebook, the very place it is intended to be used. For most developers (myself included) it’s just not worth it. Facebook “wins” and gets to dictate what users get to see and know. I don’t personally want to risk giving up all access to Facebook just to retain a useful feature. That would kind of defeat the purpose.
Facebook Principle: Give Users Choice And Control?
One of Facebook’s supposed Principles in the Platform Policy is to “Create a great user experience” and to “Give users choice and control”.
I believe that if Facebook genuinely wants to give users choice and control, and give them a great user experience, they should allow developers to create tools that extend and enhance that experience. They should not try to shut down apps and tools that give users the information that they want and find valuable. Especially when it comes to information like who has unfriended you – something that you can already figure out on your own but with a lot of extra effort.
Facebook should embrace the developer community and support its desire to improve and extend the functionality they offer. That would be truly giving users choice and control, and help make the world more open and connected.
Voice Your Opinion!
Facebook is notoriously difficult (if not impossible) to contact, but if you agree here’s what you can do:
- and this post
- Post this to places like Reddit, Slashdot, or wherever else people might be interested
- Find an appropriate email address for Facebook to contact and let them know you disagree with how they handle this. (So far, I haven’t found one)
Who knows, maybe a little attention to this issue may cause Facebook to reconsider its stance.
If you’re curious, here is the history of my dealings with Facebook about Social Fixer offering its Friend Tracker functionality (and more):
- Facebook Removes Social Fixer Page Without Warning
- Beware: Your Business Is At The Mercy Of Facebook! Social Fixer Page Deleted Without Explanation…
- Social Fixer Page Removed: Follow-up And Responses To Questions And Comments
- Facebook Requires Social Fixer Browser Extension To Remove Key Features
- Facebook Compromises: Social Fixer Can Keep Feed Filtering
On a personal note, I’ve actually received many private Messages and public comments from users who are very angry about this, and taking it out on me. I’ve been called every name in the book, and been repeatedly personally insulted. Clearly, people really feel strongly about this. But I hope that frustration would be directed at Facebook, and not at me. Posts like this are my attempt to continue being a User Advocate, and to at least give a voice for our opinions.