The latest splash in Social Networking waters was Google’s announcement of its Friend Connect Feature : pieces of code that webmasters can paste on their site to bring the features of social networking to their sites. The news follows similar announcements from FaceBook and MySpace which are looking to innovative avenues to expand social networks.
An excerpt from News.com:
“The Web is getting better by getting more social. We’ve baked social features into the infrastructure of the Web, and it is not tied to any particular site,” said David Glazer, director of engineering at Google. “Users can interact with any of their friends anywhere they go on Web, and with any app.”
Google’s Friend Connect is based on the open standards – OpenSocial APIs, OAuth and OpenID. What this essentially does is enable users to carry their social connections with them by just simply signing in to the service. At the same time website owners don’t have to worry too much on the implementation side ( the only requirement being the pasting of a code from Google).
MySpace’s Data Availability and FaceBook’s Connect are similar features targeted at giving more flexibility and portability options to users in the matter of their profiles. As of now Friend Connect, Connect and Data Availability are available on certain sites only.
The stand taken by FaceBook and MySpace to move away from the walled garden approach (locking in users to the respective sites alone) is highly commendable. It would also seem that the move was made to further the growth of subscriptions to the social networks which had begun to experience some slow-down. Google does not have an advantage in the social networking space, a reason why the announcement of Friend Connect is more important.
Site owners need to keep abreast with the happenings in this space since allowing users to carry their profiles alongside their browsing is a great way to boost visibility. There are some issues to be sorted out on the privacy side though. FaceBook created much sensation in the technology world by rejecting connecting with Friend Connect on the grounds that it does not adhere with FaceBook’s privacy terms
An excerpt from InformationWeek:
“We’ve found that [Friend Connect] redistributes user information from Facebook to other developers without users’ knowledge, which doesn’t respect the privacy standards our users have come to expect and is a violation of our Terms of Service,” said Facebook engineer Charlie Cheever in a blog post. “Just as we’ve been forced to do for other applications that redistribute data in a way users might not expect or understand, we’ve had to suspend Friend Connect’s access to Facebook user information until it comes into compliance.”
These little issues are bound to crop up since one main marketing point for social networking is the user base. And letting that base freely access other networks is cause for some heartburn. Nonetheless, these issue will hopefully be resolved in time and site owners should expect to really benefit from these developments in the social networking space.