The issue has been gaining ground for a number of months, especially since the unintended (It was unintended wasn't it?) Scoble Facebook/Plaxo mishap shed more intense light on the need for netizens to be able to control, move and share their data across a network of trusted sites. Now, it appears another step is being taken in the direction of a more Pangaea-like web.
An data portability or semantic web expert I'm not. But, anything that's going to make the job of registering for yet another social network easier suits me just fine. And, Google's announcement comes with an extra bonus, especially where small business is concerned.
Here's how it breaks out for the big three...
MySpace - Members will be able to share info across a network of partner sites, including Yahoo, eBay, Twitter and the MySpace-owned photo-sharing site Photobucket. Noticeably absent is Facebook. " MySpace will be rolling out a centralized
location within the site that allows users to manage how their content
and data is made available to third-party sites," says Mediapost.
Facebook - Through Facebook Connect, members will be able to use their Facebook identities across the Web. It will enable third-party sites to offer Facebook applications on their own turf rather than Facebook itself.
Google - Perhaps the biggest news comes from the largest of the three players. Tonight, Google will launch Friend Connect, which, according to TechCrunch, is a "way to securely send personal profile data, including friend lists, presence/status information, etc., to third party applications, say our sources." The primary benefit being to "allow users to maintain a single friends list and to coordinate social activities across different sites that perform different services."
And the Emmy goes to 'Friend Connect'
While it sounds like "same song, different verse," Friend Connect offers something the others don't -- a way for any Web site to become social, and that's the game-changer. (Once more for effect. Any Web site can take on social features.)
Google's press release says...
Websites that are not social networks may still want to be social -- and now they can be, easily. With Google Friend Connect, any website owner can add a snippet of code to his or her site and get social features up and running immediately without programming -- picking and choosing from built-in functionality like user registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting, and reviews, as well as third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.
Visitors to any site using Google Friend Connect will be able to see, invite, and interact with new friends, or, using secure authorization APIs, with existing friends from social sites on the web, including Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, orkut, Plaxo, and more.
So, Friend Connect solves two problems:
- Any Web site can become a pseudo social network. (See example below)
- Visitors to any site using FC carry their data with them. No more having to create new logins or profiles to join.
I don't know about you, but this is great news for "long tail" sites. I can see it as a boon for small businesses especially who desire to give their site more social appeal, but who lack the technical expertise to do it. A "snippet of code" is a prayer answered.
Here are some screenshots. Click on each image to see a larger version.
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