Facebook’s ties to Microsoft go back to 2006 when they first signed an advertising deal. A year later they took a $240 million investment, and the advertising relationship was extended this year.
But Microsoft’s Invite2Messenger appears to violate that policy. Messenger users are asked to log in to Facebook, and then the names and email addresses of all that user’s Facebook friends are then sent to Microsoft and displayed in clear text on a page they control (Facebook itself only shows friend’s emails as images to prevent scraping). You check off which friends you want to invite to use Messenger, and then Microsoft sends each of them an email to install the client and become friends with you. Screenshots of the process (with emails removed) are below.
When Microsoft announced Invite2Messenger they said that LinkedIn, Bebo, Hi5 and Tagged would participate, but none of those partners ever went live. Just Facebook. Another oddity – on a UK MSN site, Microsoft even noted that Robert Scoble was banned for doing exactly what Microsoft is now doing with Facebook’s apparent blessing.
As far as I can tell, Facebook has never allowed this with any other partner. And as I wrote above, they’ve shut down both Plaxo and Google for similar actions.
Why does Microsoft want these social connections imported into Messenger? Does it have anything to do with Microsoft’s surprise launch yesterday of the new Live.com social network, which pre-populates friends based on Messenger connections? From people we’ve talked to, the launch came as a complete surprise to everyone, including Facebook.
There’s a lot more to this story as well. Why did Facebook allow this in the first place (in other words, what did they get out of it)? We’ll update soon.