May 14, 2015

How We're Adapting to LinkedIn and Facebook API Shutdown

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Facebook and LinkedIn just closed off their API to us... so now what?

Last week, I wrote about why many of the services you love to connect to Contactually -- especially free social networks -- have recently decided to prevent you from doing so. If you haven't read it, the crux of it is that if you use Facebook or LinkedIn for business, you probably have important data locked up in increasingly closed, inaccessible services.

But hey, we didn't get this far by being defeatists. So what can you do -- and what is Contactually doing -- to mitigate this problem and free your data?

As always, I'm glad you asked!

Linkedin and Facebook Closed APIs...

What is Contactually doing?

While well-maintained, open APIs are usually the fastest, most reliable way to transfer data from one application to another, they certainly aren't the only way.

FullContact is a service we already use that attempts to scrape contact information from the web, and then present it to developers like us in an accessible way (which we pay for). Needless to say, we've already dramatically expanded our relationship with FullContact to include as much information as possible in your accounts, which will cover many of the gaps created by these closed APIs.

Now, FullContact data isn't perfect. It can only grab data off the web that's available to the public (so it can't access messages or other private information, even if your account has access to those things). It also limits how often we can update that information -- but we're increasing our usage to grab new data for your network every three months, instead of just once when you set up your email. And that includes information from over 100 different sources! It's actually pretty amazing, and in the end, gives you a broader, richer profile than you've ever had before.

The end result is that most users will find their day to day Contactually experience hasn't changed at all, and that they have all of the updated contact information they're used to seeing. However, we're not stopping there; we'll obviously continue to explore other avenues for getting even more data, and refreshing it more often. We definitely have some ideas.

What can you do?

As I mentioned, most users will wake up, use Contactually the way they always have, and not notice any differences from the days when Facebook and LinkedIn had direct API connections. But if you're someone with critical contact information in one of these services, our advice -- for anyone, not just Contactually users -- is to export that data as soon as you can and take control of it yourself.

You can export all of your LinkedIn connections into .CSV format by following this set of instructions (NOTE : for some reason, LinkedIn's export doesn't work properly with Safari, so use a different browser), and then import the resulting .CSV file right into Contactually by following these. If (like many people) you're constantly making new LinkedIn connections, we recommend you set up a reminder to do this once a month, so you don't miss anyone. While, yes, we wish you didn't have to do anything at all, this is actually a pretty simple procedure by internet standards, and the end result will be full control of your data.

It may not the prettiest thing in LinkedIn, but hey, it works!

(As far as we know, Facebook doesn't allow users to export data at all, which is yet another reason to avoid managing any important information there. If you know of anyone who's managed to pull contacts from there, let us know in the comments.)

UPDATE : Turns out, you can export a list of your friends names from Facebook -- but that doesn't include any of their information, so it's probably not very useful. Still, it is there. And more importantly, we're working on a solution for pulling in not only those names, but links to profiles and birthdays. We'll have details as soon as it's ready to go.

Upward and onward

Ultimately, we can't control what Facebook and LinkedIn choose to do with the data you give them. We can only choose how to handle yours -- that's why we don't sell it, don't "monetize" it, and don't restrict your access to it. Facebook and LinkedIn may not necessarily share those values, but with some small steps from you, and some hard work from us, you can enhance your Contactually experience and decrease your dependency on companies that may not have your best interests in mind.