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Yandex's Wonder app latest to be quashed by Facebook

The Russian search firm is halting the app's development after Facebook blocked its API access

Russian search giant Yandex is temporarily suspending the development of its Wonder social discovery app just one week after Facebook blocked the app's access to its API data.

The Wonder app was designed to synthesize information from a user's social networking activity on Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare and Twitter to provide answers to questions about places, music and news. Users could ask the app, for instance, which sushi restaurants their friends had gone to in New York, what types of music certain friends were listening to, or even news stories that had been shared by friends.

Though it was optional for users to connect the app with their preexisting network of Instagram, Foursquare and Twitter friends, it was mandatory for users to link the app to their Facebook accounts.

"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," said Yandex spokesman Vladimir Isaev via email. "Since this access was revoked, we decided to put our application on hold for the time being."

Facebook blocked Wonder's access to its social API (application programming interface) within four hours of the app's beta launch to iOS users in the United States.

Wonder was built to offer users social search tools at a time when Facebook is making moves to stake its own claim in search. The social network launched its local-business discovery feature Nearby last year for its mobile app, and is in the process of rolling out its much-talked-about social Graph Search tool.

Many of the questions Graph Search is designed to answer -- such as, "Which Mexican restaurants are liked by my friends in San Francisco?" -- are strikingly similar to the types of queries intended for Wonder.

The Wonder shutdown is part of a larger issue tied to whether certain firms are allowed to access other social networks' API data. Last week, Twitter's new Vine mobile video app sparked lots of questions just hours after its launch when users discovered they were unable to access their Facebook friends through the service.

Facebook, in response, published an update to its platform policies in an effort to explain why it blocked the friend-search feature on Vine.

To explain Wonder's blocked access, Yandex's Isaev points to the same policies, in part stating that 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," Isaev said, though he added that the company's understanding of Wonder differs from that view because the app does not index publicly available information, only data from friends.

Yandex says it is pursuing partnership opportunities with other social networks and services to offer users "a richer Internet experience via Wonder." The company identifies itself as the most popular search engine in Russia with 60 percent of all search traffic.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is [email protected]


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