Security Risks Force Meebo To Remove Unapproved Facebook Support

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Last month meebo, the web-based chat startup that supports nearly every IM protocol, announced that it had added support for both MySpace and Facebook Chat. Meebo’s post on the new features was a little strange – while they explicitly thanked “the folks at MySpace who encouraged and helped us to test and gave us their support”, there was no such mention of any support from Facebook’s side (instead, thanks went out to Eion Robb, who created a Facebook Chat Plugin for Pidgin). And while it’s easy to assume that Facebook was simply unwilling to help meebo, it turns out that meebo never asked, knowing full well that any changes Facebook made later on could break what they’d built.

Tonight Meebo is announcing that they’re removing support for Facebook Chat. From the company’s post on the change:

We have been speaking to the Facebook team, and it turns out, they’d like us to connect to their network in a different way. In the interim, they asked us take Facebook off Meebo, and we said “okay.”

However, we were glad to hear that the Facebook team was genuinely excited to see their network on Meebo, especially since they already have plans to open Facebook Chat. They also committed resources from their Chat and Facebook Connect teams to do extra work with us to get Facebook Chat back on Meebo “really, really soon.”

While it’s easy to point the finger at Facebook over this (the company is known for being litigious when someone implements an unauthorized use of its services), it sounds like Meebo is at fault. COO Martin Green says that while the company did reach out to MySpace, it chose to implement the Pidgin plugin without Facebook’s consent (the plugin has been used successfully on a number of native chat clients without any complaints from Facebook, though it isn’t Facebook-approved).

However, unlike these native chat clients, meebo is based on a web site and is exposed to different security risks. Facebook believed that some of these could have directly put its users at risk, which is why it asked meebo to hold off until the two companies could work together to create a secure implementation of Facebook Chat.

Of course it’s possible that meebo is offering this explanation in the hopes of smoothing things over with Facebook and avoiding litigation or being cut off from the service altogether, but it sounds like this was just a case of buggy code.

Update: A Facebook employee comments below that there was no litigation issue and that Facebook would just like to get meebo to use Chat in a way that is fully supported (we should note that the employee’s views may not represent those of the company’s).

Update 2: The original version of this article attributed Meebo’s comments to CEO Seth Sternberg, but we actually spoke to COO Martin Green. We’ve corrected the post.

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