Open-Xchange offers Facebook contact exporter

Summary:There's a new way to export your Facebook contacts so that you can then import them to Apple iCal, Gmail, Google+, Facebook, Outlook, and whatever other product or service you like.

Are you tired of Facebook blocking your ability to export your Facebook contacts? There's a new solution available. Open-Xchange, a company that makes open-source software for email and collaboration efficiency, has developed an extension that lets Facebook users export their friends using official APIs.

The tool uses a demo Open-Xchange user account, the official APIs from social and business networks, and emails you have sent, to match all your contact information. Facebook hasn't responded to this latest attempt at letting users export their friends, but if Open-Xchange is only using sanctioned API calls to gather the relevant data, it won't be easy for the social network to react as it has before.

The service is available online right now, but the company is also building it into the next version of its software that people can download and run it themselves. It works by merging all your networks, address books, and contacts from your emails into one big address book.

This newly merged address book can then be exported as a vCard and imported into whatever service you like. Here are the steps you need to follow:

  1. Allow popups in your browser. Then go to ox.io.
  2. Click on Create Account and do so.
  3. Click on the link you received in your email – you'll be logged into your private OX account immediately.
  4. Click cancel on the Wizard screen (you may go back there later from the help menu), and instead go to the Mail View (click on the envelope in the top left corner). Click on Add Email account… and add at least that account that you use for communications with the people from your network. Your email account must be IMAP – not POP, or it won't work. Your Open-Xchange account will not copy any emails, it just makes that account available inside the Web UI.
  5. Optional: Add more email accounts (must be IMAP). The more email your Open-Xchange user can harvest for email addresses and names the more it can overcome the limitations of the APIs.
  6. If you only want to import Facebook skip to step 7, otherwise use the import wizard first. Go to Help (the "?" on the top) and then choose Wizard. On page 2 you can select from many other services (the more the better). Don't do Facebook, this comes last.
  7. Go to the contacts view (the black figure icon), click on the "Import facebook contacts button." Click the "—or create a fresh one for your profile" oAuth Account button to allow access of Open-Xchange to your Facebook account. Press Start.

The process takes a little while to run (you'll get an email notification when it's done). For each email account, Open-Xchange goes through every folder and uses the first 6,000 emails to look for contacts. At the end of the process, you'll be allowed to download the merged address book. Last but not least, you can import it into Apple iCal, Gmail, Google+, Facebook, Outlook, and whatever other product or service you like.

"The Cloud needs to be open – just as source code and data protocols needed to be open to create the Internet," an Open-Xchange spokesperson said in a statement. "With more and more data moving into and being created inside the cloud, this data needs to be owned by the creators, not the services."

Last week, Facebook blocked a Google Chrome extension for exporting Facebook contacts. Mohamed Mansour developed Facebook Friend Exporter to let you grab all the information about your Facebook friends so you can import them elsewhere. Because it got popular after the launch of Google+, Facebook noticed an increase in its usage and began to hide emails on its mobile site, which the extension requires. Mansour is working hard to make the tool work again.

Open-Xchange's tool isn't as thorough or efficient as Facebook Friend Exporter: all it does is emails. Still, that's really all the information you need to import your contacts elsewhere. As I've already mentioned, the process may take a while because of the indirect route it takes to build a merged address book, but it doesn't appear to break Facebook's Terms of Service (which Facebook Friend Exporter does). It doesn't look like Facebook can easily stop Open-Xchange's method (without just blatantly denying the company's API calls).

See also:

Topics: Collaboration, Social Enterprise

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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