By: Gigaom
January 18, 2013 at 15:41 PM EST
Now that is has voice messaging, Facebook un-friends (aka blocks) Voxer!
Facebook is banning Voxer and disallowing it access to its platform. The question is - will this ban extend to other communication apps or is Facebook cherry picking and targeting individual companies. And the bigger question: is it time for anti-trust people to intervene?

Facebook is planning to un-friend mobile push-to-talk voice messaging app, Voxer. Facebook yesterday told Voxer that it is suspending their access to Facebook’s identity system within 48 hours. The reason given: Voxer is too competitive to Facebook’s social platform. When contacted by us, Voxer CEO Tom Katis told GigaOM:

Facebook contacted Voxer to notify us that they would be blocking Voxer users’ ability to find and connect with their Facebook friends via Voxer.  Facebook informed us that the change would occur in 48 hours.  Facebook stated that they view our service, with its tens of millions of users, as a “competitive social network.”

voxer_1“We were a bit taken aback because we never thought of them as competition,” said Katis. This is a body blow for the company as it has been a growth and retention engine for the company. While Katis tried to play it cool, the reality within the four walls of the company is quite different.

Katis said that unlike some of the other apps, he was just using the authorization aspect of Facebook’s platform. Voxer used Facebook login to find Voxer user’s friends who are also on Voxer. Unlike other apps, it didn’t post messages to one’s newsfeed.  Facebook is yet to confirm the ban and we are waiting for their response.

Voxer has been using Facebook login since its launch in May 2011, and today about a third of its “millions” of daily active members use Facebook login. The ban will start to impact the Voxer community within a day or so.

Facebook’s actions are worth noting, especially for other app developers, he said. “Basically if you are a company that uses Facebook’s platform, you access can be taken away in somewhat arbitrary manner,” he pointed out. “It is a cautionary tale, if anything.” Katis’ comments are bolstered by the sequence of events that lead to this suspension of access. Take a look and be the judge.

  • January 3, 2013: Facebook introduced voice messaging to Facebook Messenger.
  • January 16, 2013: Voxer introduced its Android app. (Katis told us the Android app release has significantly increased messaging in the days following the release.)
  • January 17, 2013, Facebook announced VOIP calling via Facebook Messenger.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but notice the correlation between Facebook’s product upgrades and this decision. It is not clear if the decision to ban Voxer was just applicable to Voxer or is extended to other apps such as Wechat and Kakao. What about Skype? Facebook is yet to respond to my request.

To be honest, Facebook’s response shouldn’t come as a surprise. Having seen Instagram and Pinterest turbo-charge their growth by leveraging Facebook’s open graph, world’s largest social network has decided that it will never let anyone get big by using their graph as a crutch. When it saw Snapchat explode and it came up with its xeroxed version: Poke.

These actions remind me of the days when Microsoft would use its influence to crush hit apps on its platform and come-up with their own substandard version of that app. Maybe it is time for anti-trust heavyweights to  take out a clean blotters and start making notes.

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