Friends Connect : Google’s UN Role

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Google has developed it OpenSocial platform by introducing a series of tools aimed at enhancing the way in which users interact with friends over the internet.

The service called Friends Connect is aimed at allowing sites that are not part of the social network scene, to provide a more social experience for their users. This can be done through the provision of various social gadgets created by Google and OpenSocial.

It works by providing social gadgets through a Friends Connect administration site which can then be used based on the needs of an individuals site. The site owner simply copies across the necessary code across to their site providing a range of social features without the need for sophisticated programming.

As part of the service site owners can then link to a range of sites for various functions, including Facebook, Yahoo and AOL. Users can also user the Google talk instant messaging system.

With this a list of contacts and friends can be imported from other social networks, where you can see names and photos of friends who are members of a specific site.

“Google Friend Connect is like giving Webmasters a salt shaker full of ’social’ that they can sprinkle on their sites to add social capabilities,” David Glazer, a director of engineering at Google told a conference call of reporters Monday.

One of the early advantages to sites is that Friend Connect provides a means of user identification through an existing log in on AOL, Yahoo and many more from the emerging OpenID standard.

The Friends Connect service is based on the OpenSocial platform that up until now has remained a way to write applications for a range sites across the partnership.

Recently MySpace announced plans to loosen its hold on data of an estimated 200 million personal profiles that currently use it’s site, a deal that would enable members to share information to be shared with four partners, Yahoo, PhotoBucket, Twitter and eBay.

The user would be tied to MySpace as a central profile for use across all sites, encouraging users to store all their data needed for a complete web experience at the site to begin with.

Facebook also entered a deal a day after the MySpace announcement with its 70 million users, allowing profiles to be shared with any site wanting to host them.

“It’s a smart move by Google which is trying to play the role of United Nations secretary general by making sure everyone talks nicely to one another, getting the data to where they want to move it back and forward, and participate in open standards.” – Charlene Li, principal analyst at Forrester

Currently 99% of sites are not socially enabled so there is a huge market for the Friend Connect service, and the user data flow through the service is a lucrative offering.

In these early stages however there are things that are yet to be decided. One major decision is how Google intends to share the information that is collated through the Friends Connect service with web publishers. Currently user details of those who log into a site through Friends Connect will not be given to site owners. This may change in the future, but there are issues residing as to how sites like Google, and Facebook or MySpace have very different privacy objectives.

As can be seen with the Facebook and MySpace data sharing announcements, existing social network sites are looking to make their networks the place for a central profile from which users will adopt a complete identity across the web. Google on the other hand is not currently prioritising these social network profiles, instead focusing around small web publishers harvesting the flow of data with its AdSense advertising network which is already serving millions of sites.

With Google expected to approve a few dozen more sites to the Friends Connect service, and MySpace and Facebook due to roll out their offerings over the next few weeks I guess we will have to wait and see how this one develops.

                    

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