Google has announced a preview version of Friend Connect, a service which allows any registered web site to offer its visitors social networking and interactive features, and take advantage of much larger sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Google Talk, hi5, orkut, and Plaxo.
Anyone visiting a web site featuring Friend Connect may be able to connect with their online friends, leave comments, and interact with a range of applications, depending on how the site owner has set things up.
For example, the independent musician Ingrid Michaelson has added an iLike OpenSocial application which allows visitors to stay on her site but still interact with other social networks, add music to their profiles, see who is attending concerts, and so on.
Not only does it provide an advantage to smaller, more niche web sites, but it will hopefully mean that user information can be shared between the larger social networks.
“Google Friend Connect is about helping the ‘long tail’ of sites become more social,” said David Glazer, a director of engineering at Google. “Many sites aren’t explicitly social and don’t necessarily want to be social networks, but they still benefit from letting their visitors interact with each other. That used to be hard. Fortunately, there’s an emerging wave of social standards — OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, and the data access APIs published by Facebook, Google, MySpace, and others. Google Friend Connect builds on these standards to let people easily connect with their friends, wherever they are on the web, making ‘any app, any site, any friends’ a reality.”
Friend Connect’s success will depend upon how many different services can be linked up using it, and whether people are happy for Google to act as a gatekeeper for all their personal information.