Google Friend Connect -- making open social easy
Google announced that it would be releasing Google Friend Connect this evening (link won't work until Monday evening.) The idea behind Friend Connect is to give Web masters the tools to easily add social features to their sites. This is what Google announced:
"With Google Friend Connect (see http://www.google.com/friendconnect following this evening's Campfire One), 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."
What Google is essentially doing is making it easy to tap into new, emerging standards around social features. These standards specifically deal with identity (OpenID), data access rights(OAuth), and social applications (OpenSocial). These are all standards that have emerged in the past six months and are laying the foundation for open social networks. Friend Connect is Google's way to make these new standards more accessible to Web site owners who don't have legions of developers at the ready.
Dan Farber at CNET has an excellent review of how Friend Connect works (and what it isn't).
One question I'm hearing is why Friend Connect is being announced now, especially on the heels of MySpace and Facebook announcements last week. Google is tapping into the "all things social" heat of the moment, but it's adding a different perspective -- not as a data source and social network "owner" but as an enabler. It's played this role well in the past with search and mapping APIs but make no mistake -- Google wants to spread its tentacles into the social Web.
The biggest buzz right now about social networks is not about them becoming more open, but about how they can't make money. I expect that at some point in the future, participating sites will have the option of enabling monetization engines via AdSense that tap into the deep profile and user data flowing through Friend Connect -- all done, presumably, with clear user approval and transparency.
For the readers of this blog, how interested are you in adding social features to your site? And if you are interested in doing this, what features would you want to add first? For myself, I would love to add links to identities/profiles for the people who add their comments to posts (again, assuming that they provide permission to do this). That would provide greater context for the comments and potentially stir even more discussion.