Why Robert Scoble got banned from Facebook

Illustrious egoblogger Robert Scoble, the Paris Hilton of Silicon Valley, has committed the geek equivalent of a DUI. He has, by his own admission, violated Facebook's terms of service, and had his account suspended — 5,000 friends and all. Scoble's sin? He used a script to export his Facebook address-book information to Plaxo, which runs a competing social network. Running such scripts has long been forbidden, though Scoble argues Facebook should open up its information. Unlikely, given Facebook's history.

What Scoble forgets is that when Facebook was just a college project of Zuckerberg's, long before he raised any venture capital, he fought a running battle with the founders of ConnectU. While they sued him for allegedly ripping off their code, Zuckerberg's Facebook sued them over their attempts to grab data from Facebook. To this day, Facebook encodes email addresses as a graphic image, annoying users who'd like to copy and paste the information — but also frustrating automated scripts which, like ConnectU, would attempt to steal away Facebook's users.

Plaxo is one of many companies which believe that social-network data should be open and portable. Facebook — informed by the ConnectU experience — disagrees. What's true is that companies like Plaxo are envious of Facebook's success, and in arguing for openness, aren't pursuing high-minded ideals — they're seeking commercial advantage. "Open" is just another word for "gimme."

And Scoble? In acting the martyr, he's playing right into their hands. Sad to say, his massive list of "friends" isn't coming in handy. Only 284 people have joined a group petitioning for Scoble's reinstatement.

(Photo of Robert Scoble by scriptingnews; photomontage licensed under Creative Commons)