Google turns ordinary sites into social networks

Monday, May 12, 2008

Google has announced its Friend Connect service, which allows websites to easily embed social-networking features onto their pages.
The big sell of Friend Connect is that it allows users to embed features such as logins and message walls without needing to program anything themselves.
Instead a user simply copies a piece of code from a Google application gallery and embeds it on their site, which immediately gives them access to that feature.
The login feature is built on OpenID, meaning that users with Yahoo and AOL accounts can login into Friend Connect websites without needing to create a new profile. Similarly, because the applications are built on the OpenSocial standards, Google is expecting a wealth of third-party applications to become available to Friend Connect sites as the service gains a following.
"Social networking is going mainstream - it used to be proprietary, but now it's going to be open and baked into the infrastructure of the net, not just one site or one source," says David Glazer, a director of engineering at Google.
Users will also be able to pull their friends lists from sites with data access APIs
such as Facebook and Orkut to Friend Connect sites, though Google promises users will have complete control over which friends they wish to bring across.
A short wait
Those wishing to tinker with Friend Connect may have to wait a while, however, with the company currently accepting only a limited number of sites to trial the applications.
"At the moment people can sign up to a wait list, while we make sure the technology is ready to go," says Glazer. "That'll be months, certainly not six months though. We want to get this right, it's users' information that's involved. You can expect to see a dozen or two dozen sites live in the next few days."
Friend Connect comes just days after MySpace and Facebook announced tools allowing users to take their profiles with them to other social networking sites.
By contrast, Google's strategy seems to suggest a move away from the "walled gardens" of current sites, though the company denied that Friend Connect represented a threat to Facebook and Myspace.
"In the same way there are thousands of sites about everything on the internet, there's still a need for sites with particular authority," notes Glazer.
"[MySpace and Facebook] are experts at building social sites where people congregate. In my opinion there'll be a long tail of large and small sites feeding each other. Friend Connect is going to enlarge the ecosystem, rather than shift it."

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