Facebook for HP webOS temporarily vanished from Facebook, temporarily took your content with it
Yesterday triggered a note of panic amongst Facebook-using webOSites (webOSians? webOSers? What are we?). We started seeing a lot of 'Communication Errors' claiming that the "user cannot access this application", though just hitting the dismiss button made those errors go away. But something else seems to have gone away… the app itself.
The app's had not been self-deleted off of your phone or anything, but it did appear to have disappeared off of Facebook. We've checked in our respective Facebook App Center authorization pages and noticed that "Facebook for HP webOS", an old standby for years on that page, had gone and vanished. Poof, gone. For whatever reason, the webOS Facebook app's authorization with Facebook was gone, which definitely explains the communication error messages.
If that were the entire story, we would have chalked it up to an oversight or error and moved on with our days. But that's not the entire story, as something less-than-awesome happens when an app is removed from Facebook: it can take content posted by the app with it.
We saw several reports in our forums and on Twitter from webOS Facebook users who had noticed that photos, status updates, check-ins, and the like that they'd posted with the app were no longer visible on Facebook. As Charence Wong noted on Twitter, Facebook's privacy settings are such that "when an app no longer exists [according to Facebook], privacy settings do not allow that content to be displayed on Facebook." And we can totally understand why that'd be the case - the overwhelming majority of the time an app is removed from Facebook, it's because it was violating Facebook's terms of service by doing bad things to unwitting user profiles. Removing the app and making content posted through it is a way to protect users and quickly clean up all of the crap posted by a rogue app. Problem is, Facebook for HP webOS is an app that still records hundreds of thousands of users to its name, and there are many many more that did use the Facebook app to post millions of photos, status updates, and more over the past few years.
It's one thing to stop supporting an app - we would frankly be surprised if the aging Facebook for webOS app were to be updated - it's another for an app to be removed. Considering what happens when an app is removed from Facebook like this, our hope was that this wasn't a permanent cleansing of our data. Thankfully, it turns out to have been a hiccup in the matrix, if you will. As of early this morning, things were back up and running if nothing had ever happened. The Facebook for HP webOS app was returned to its rightful status on our Facebook App Center and our missing mobile photos and statuses were restored.
Upon determining that something was most definitely wrong, we contacted both HP and Facebook to see what was up. HP didn't know anything about it, though our suspicion had been that the problem was on Facebook's side anyway. For their part, Facebook tells us that this was an issue of temporary unavailability, though they declined to comment on what specifically caused the temporary unavailability. But with the app now (hopefully) restored to permanent availability, so too has our mobile-posted content been restored to permanent visibility. Our photos are there, our status updates are present, and the connection errors have been vanquished.
With everything restored to proper working order, now would be a good time to point out that Facebook actually allows you to download an archive of your uploaded photos, status updates, and chat logs. Just use a desktop browser to open your Account Settings page, click on the "Download a copy of your Facebook data" link, and save a local copy of all your Facebook stuff for good measure. With that out of the way, you can go about reposting bogus copywrite protection status updates without worry they'll be randomly lost to the ether.