Some closure on the story of how Yandex — the Russian search giant — built a social discovery app that relied on Facebook interconnection to gather data, and then found Facebook blocking its service within hours of launching. Today Yandex said that after discussions with the social network, Facebook has finally, terminally said that the app violates its Platform Policies, specifically on the point of Wonder being a competing search engine. Facebook will not reinstate the ability to use Facebook’s Graph API, so as a result, Yandex is planning to pulll the app from the app store and put it on hold for now.
The full statement from Yandex:
“We discussed the issue with Facebook and it was confirmed that Facebook views the application Wonder as something that violates the Facebook Platform Policies (section I.12) and that the access to Facebook’s Graph API will not be restored.
“According to Section I.12, no data obtained from Facebook can be used in any search engine or directory without the company’s written permission. The reason behind Facebook’s decision to revoke our access to their data appears to be that they do consider Wonder to be a search engine, while our understanding of what it is differs from this view.
“Wonder’s functioning, in its current state, as well as the quality of user experience it provides, largely depends on the access to Facebook’s Graph API. Since this access was revoked, we decided to put our application on hold for the time being. We will be considering partnership opportunities with other social networks and services to offer our users a richer internet experience via Wonder.”
The emergence of Wonder, and a week before the blockage of Voxer, has kicked off a new level of scrutiny about how Facebook allows other apps to appropriate its data: in effect, the company has said that it is not sharing with apps that don’t share back, or that replicate core functionality without permission.
The Wonder app, which was nearly a year in the making, was put together by Yandex Labs, which is based in Palo Alto, CA. I actually met the three leads on the project, Maxim Grinev, Maria Grineva and Sergey Fayfer, for the first time in person yesterday, as I’m in town for the week.
They told me about how the idea germinated from their own move to the Bay Area a year ago, when they were trying to figure out what to do and where to go when they arrived, because, in their collective mind, there wasn’t a good enough social app out there to provide that kind of recommended viewpoint.
The app then went on to be built using a number of different features — including Nuance-powered voice recognition, API feeds from various other social networks like Foursquare, and new algorithms for how to digest and cancel out repetitive news in favor of more up to date information — but without the core dataset provided via Facebook’s Graph API, the carpet was effectively pulled from under Wonder.
Considering that Facebook flat-out thinks of Wonder as a search engine, and one that competes against Facebook itself, makes one speculate about what else Facebook has planned for its own, new Graph Search feature in the future.
And if there are more apps — or would-be apps in development — that might find themselves blocked in future, will we see companies begin to look for alternative solutions? Is there room for another social data aggregator like Facebook in the market?
Equally, it’s worth wondering whether we will see some of the smart technology that went into Wonder appearing elsewhere — something Yandex had already said it would consider even when it first launched its Wonder “experiment.” It was potentially a route for Yandex to build its profile and dataset for U.S. consumers, and English-language users, so it’s clear that these markets remain in the company’s sights.