Google Gets More Friendly, Fights Facebook
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Will Google's new Friend Connect help Webmasters add a "dash of social" to their sites? That's what the search giant is promising with today's announcement.
The idea is to make it easy to let Web site owners add social networking features like chat, games and ratings by simply copying and pasting a few lines of code. For users, that means instead of having to create an account on a Friend Connect-powered Web site, they can use their Google ID instead of yet another login and password to remember.
Facebook has something similar with Facebook's Connect service, which uses a consumer's existing Facebook ID info to validate them on a site outside Facebook.
In the latter case, your activities on Facebook Connect sites, such as posting a review, would be automatically reported back to your Facebook friends if you set up your profile to follow your activities.
Google, a prime backer of the OpenSocial initiative, offers a broader of access points for its new offering. You can gain entry to Friend Connect features using Google ID info, as well as Yahoo, AOL, or OpenID.
You can also create an entirely new profile. Friend Connect lets users post profile information and find out about each other at these Connect-enabled sites much as they would on a social networking site like Facebook or MySpace.
Chat and other features are available from a list of gadgets at the Friend Connect site. A Google promo video said "there will soon be an endless number of other social gadgets you'll soon be able to add."
Also, Web sites that use Friend Connect automatically become "OpenSocial containers" capable of running an emerging cross-section of applications from the OpenSocial developer community, said Google product manager Mussie Shore in a blog post. Friend Connect is an OpenSocial application.
There's no restriction on where Friend Connect might be added, be it a fan site, blog or merchant site.
The race is on?
Kathy Sharpe, CEO of digital marketing agency Sharpe Partners, said if this is a social networking race, she gives the early nod to Facebook. "It's completely on brand for Facebook because that's what they're known for, social networking," Sharpe told InternetNews.com. "Google's known for algorithms and search."
On the other hand, Sharpe said Google has a better reputation for security than Facebook, but she also thinks Google will have to change some of its past practices to be successful.
"This is Facebook's game to lose, they have the brand. It's not a zero sum game, but Google hasn't shown it believes in marketing. Microsoft finally learned what Apple learned years ago, you have to market to be successful," said Sharpe.
Meanwhile, Sharpe notes Web site operators get to benefit from being associated with the Facebook brand. "That's what you want to reach the 35 and unders," she said. "And then Facebook will have all this data. I don't exactly what they'll do with it, but I suspect they'll find ways to use it, not in a selfish way, but to benefit their members, help them connect more with one another and add value."
She expects the next big area of growth will be mobile where you'll be able to take this kind of universal ID and participate at different sites designed for mobile.