July 24, 2024
Meta cuts off third-party access to Facebook Groups, leaving developers and customers in disarray

The recent surprise announcement that Meta will soon be shutting down its Facebook Groups API is throwing some businesses and social media marketers into disarray.

On January 23, Meta announced the release of its Facebook Graph API v19.0, which included the news that the company would be deprecating its existing Facebook Groups API. The latter, which is used by developers and businesses to schedule posts to Facebook Groups, will be removed within 90 days, Meta said. This includes all the Permissions and Reviewable Features associated with the API, it also noted.

Meta explained that a major use case for the API was a feature that allowed developers to privately reply in Facebook Groups. For example, a small business that wanted to send a single message to a person who posted on their Facebook Group or who had commented in the group could be messaged through the API. However, Meta said that another change in the new v19.0 API would enable this feature, without the need for the Groups API.

But developers told TechCrunch that the shutdown of the API would cause problems for companies that offer solutions to customers who want to schedule and automate their social media posts. For example, explained Adam Peterson, the CEO of VipeCloud, which provides a suite of tools for scheduling social media posts, the API’s closure will have a “noticeable impact” on his business, as about 8% of his total revenue is on the chopping block. His company serves some 5,000 Facebook accounts, primarily those belonging to female entrepreneurs, he noted.

These customers rely on VipeCloud’s access to Facebook’s APIs to publish publicly to their Facebook Pages, but also post privately to Groups to communicate with their team. The private groups are used as something of a Slack alternative by these small businesses, he says.

“Every single one of our customers is freaking out,” says Peterson.

Other customers of the Groups API may rely on automations that are scheduled by the business’s agency partners, some of which will be disproportionally impacted by the API’s closure.

Peterson explains that customers often rely on agencies to handle various aspects of their posting, like team building or team motivation. “Those agencies, this is their entire business. This is their livelihood,” he adds.

The move also impacts VipeCloud’s competitors, often non-venture-funded companies that build market-specific services and whose revenue may be in the single-digit millions to low double-digit millions.

“Some of these other companies — they’re going to be killed,” notes Peterson. “And that’s just never fun to watch, even if we compete with them. You’d rather win on service or product or something,” he continues. “This is platform risk in real time.”

A company by the name of PostMyParty, which helps social sellers and others schedule and automate online parties, says the API’s closure will put the company out of business.

“I will lose seven years of work and over 10,000 customers,” owner Daniel Burge tells TechCrunch. “A multimillion-dollar loss. Let alone the impact on all of our customers that rely on our software,” he adds.

PostMyParty is used by small micro-businesses, including health and fitness coaches who do online boot camps in Facebook Groups, work-at-home moms engaged in social sales and others with coaching groups or customer groups, says Burge.

The entrepreneur pointed out this is not the first time Meta has done something like this.

“A number of years ago [Meta] abruptly ended their Events API, with zero notice,” Burge says. “We just came in one day and everything was broken, we had thousands of support requests open from our customers and it almost destroyed our business that time as well.”

What’s more, developers tell us that Meta’s motivation behind the API’s shutdown is unclear. On the one hand, it could be that Facebook Groups don’t generate ad revenue and the shutdown of the API will leave developers without a workaround. But Meta hasn’t clarified if that’s the case. Instead, Meta’s blog post only mentioned one use case that would be addressed through the new v.19.0 API.

Maurice W. Evans, a Meta Certified Community Manager, believes the move will pose challenges for small businesses, developers and digital markets, but also represents a “pivotal shift in Meta’s operational philosophy.”

“The removal of third-party access to Facebook Groups could significantly alter the digital landscape, creating both hurdles and opportunities for community managers and businesses alike. As a Meta Certified Community Manager, I’ve seen firsthand the value these tools bring to fostering vibrant, engaged online communities. This change underscores the need for adaptability and innovation in our strategies,” Evans tells TechCrunch.

Elsewhere on social media, website design firm Archer Web Design called the news of the API’s closure “devastating” and said that “businesses and social media marketers will be thrown into the stone age with this!,” they wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

On Meta’s forum for developers, one developer says they’re “pretty shocked” by the company’s announcement, noting their app relies on the Groups API and will essentially no longer work when the shutdown occurs.

Others are frustrated that Meta hasn’t clearly explained if posting on Groups will be done with a Page Access token going forward, as the way the announcement is worded it seems that part is only relevant for those posting private replies, not posting to the group as a whole. Burge, for instance, wonders if the whole thing could just be some messaging mistake — like Meta perhaps forgot to include the part where it was going to note what its new solution would be.

There is concern, however, that Meta is deprioritizing developers’ interests having recently shut down its developer bug portal as well.

Reps from Facebook haven’t replied to the developers’ comments in its forums (as of the time of writing), leaving everyone in the dark.

Laments another developer in the forum, “it affects my ongoing projects and projects that will be launched soon. I don’t know what to do.”

This story is developing. Meta has been asked for comment and we’ll update as we know more. 

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