Open-Xchange, maker of open-source software for e-mail and other collaboration needs, plans to release a tool to let people extract contact information from Facebook friends who've shared it.
The technique uses the company's SocialOX tool, which provides what Chief Executive Rafael Laguna calls a "magic address book" that draws on your online address books at LinkedIn, Gmail, and other sites.
The tool is arriving during a hot time for social networking: Google has just launched a mostly closed beta test of its new service, Google+, and incumbent power Facebook is blocking access to another tool that can be used to move contact information to Google+.
Open-Xchange's approach isn't for the faint of heart, but the company is working on simplifying it, Laguna said.
"It works pretty well and doesn't break any terms and conditions," he said in a Google+ comment. He details how it works in a separate comment on the same discussion thread.
With the approach, the software does the minimal amount of "scraping," which means copying raw data off a Web page rather than accessing it from an API (application programming interface) explicitly designed to permit such an operation.
"You most probably won't need those scrapers anyhow, because our method uses the services API's and all e-mail accounts made available to your OX user to harvest names and e-mail addresses from the e-mails within," Laguna said. "And then we merge all this stuff into your 'magic' address book from all your friends and business and mail networks that you give your Open-Xchange user access to."
Meanwhile, there's another, Facebook-sanctioned way to get your contacts' e-mail addresses out of Facebook: Yahoo. You won't get phone numbers, birthdays, and other useful information, but the main thing you need for Google+ and Gmail is e-mail addresses.
To do that, open a fresh account at Yahoo. As soon as it's created, you'll get an option to import contacts from elsewhere, including Facebook. Choose that option, authorize the tool, and it'll import the contacts.
You'll then have to transfer them to Google by exporting a CSV (comma-separated values) spreadsheet. Gmail lets you import a CSV by clicking Contacts, then the More actions button, then the Import menu item.
Also worth noting about this method are TechCrunch's snarky remarks about Facebook's contradictory position on whether mass exporting of data is permissible.
The debate centers on who exactly has control over the contact information. On Facebook, people can share it with their contacts, but Facebook doesn't permit automated extraction. Google, eager to press any advantage it can get over Facebook, makes people export this information, as long as their contacts have shared it.