It may not be Betamax versus VHS, but a war between two technology giants is heating up. On Wednesday, Facebook Connect added Yahoo's sites to its social-networking alliance. The Yahoo announcement, which goes into effect in the first half of next year, was made shortly before Google said its rival social platform, Friend Connect, now supports Twitter credentials.
Facebook Connect and Google's Friend Connect allow a user to sign on and then remain signed on when visiting other sites in a network. Additionally, a user can access social connections from an allied site, as well as conduct activities specific to a site or network, such as easily posting photos from Flickr, a Yahoo site, to Facebook.
If a user signs onto Google's Friend Connect with a Twitter ID, the Twitter profile, picture, name and tweeting ability are available on any of the nine million sites in the Google network. The search giant has also been adding other features to Friend Connect, such as new ways to share information and private e-mail, and it has been experimenting with a social-search tool that allows users to connect through Google profile information.
Various sites are lining up as partners to one social platform or the other, in a dance that many industry observers say is preparation for an explosion of micro-payments and micro-targeting.
If a user can sign on and remain signed on within a network, then an electronic wallet of some kind can be used on the partnering sites without having to re-enter information. Facebook, for instance, has reportedly been getting ready to roll out a GroupCard payment system, and Google Checkout is ready for widespread implementation on Friend Connect. Also, users' profiles and social connections can be micro-targeted by advertisers on multiple sites, consistent with any privacy options.
Not Betamax vs VHS
Some observers see the new developments in terms of what it says about each party.
Google, the thinking goes, needs an alliance with a major social network to counter Facebook, and Twitter fills that bill. And Yahoo, by allying with Facebook, is essentially outsourcing social networking, observers have suggested. If Yahoo is indeed outsourcing, that would be a surprise because Yahoo has been announcing plans and products to take advantage of the social-networking trend.
Brad Shimmin, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said these moves are part of Google's and Facebook's efforts to turn the popularity of social networking into a business.
But, he noted, this isn't quite Betamax versus VHS. "They both support the OpenID standard," he pointed out, so there is no major technical obstacle blocking the networks from sharing log-ins.
Eventually, Shimmin said, he expects to see some mechanism for using IDs on either network.