Mark Zuckerberg may be the most followed user on Google+, but good luck trying to find any of your Facebook friends on Google’s new social service. Facebook is making it difficult for anyone to import their friend contact information into Google+. There is no direct contact import feature such as there is for Yahoo or Hotmail, and Facebook is clamping down on third-party services that made it easy to bring your Facebook friends into Google+.
Over the weekend, Facebook blocked a Google Chrome extension called the Facebook Friend Exporter. And in fact, Facebook changed its OAuth 2.0 API in such a way that it “suddenly removed email addresses from the queries without warning,” says Owen Mundy, creator of Give Me My Data. Other data can still be exported, just not your friends’ email addresses.
There still might be one back door open to sneak your Facebook friends into Google+. And that’s Yahoo. You can import your Facebook friends’ contact information, including emails, just fine into Yahoo. (First, you link your Facebook and Yahoo accounts, and then you import your contacts from Yahoo Mail).
I say “might” because I just tried it, and the Yahoo importer in Google+ didn’t even work for me in Chrome. But it did seem to work in Firefox (irony alert). Still, I couldn’t tell if it had actually imported my Facebook friends who are also on Google+ because most of those are also duplicated in my Gmail contacts. Other Facebook friends do not show up in Google+ (although their email addresses imported just fine into Yahoo).
While we’ve seen Facebook play these tricks before because they don’t want to help jumpstart competing services, I don’t really think it’s that big a deal. In this case, your email contacts alone (Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or Hotmail) should be enough to get anyone going on Google+. Your real friends are in both Facebook and Gmail, not to mention your other more occasional contacts, which you can start placing in different circles.
Although Facebook’s shenanigans aren’t good from the point of view of data portability, on the whole I think this is actually a good thing for Google+. If it were too easy to import your Facebook friends, then Google+ would simply become a Facebook clone, replicating your Facebook experience. By forcing you to create a new social graph from the ground up, Google+ has a greater chance of becoming distinct.