Someday we may find it quaint that multiple Web sites required you to sign on separately, set up a separate profile, and act like you had no other identity on the Web. A step in this direction came Thursday when Facebook and Google continued efforts to allow their users to sign on once across a network of sites.
Other sites on the network may share components of a user's social identity, with access to profiles, ratings, friend lists, and more. The expanded networks could also include a desktop application or a mobile device.
'A Dash of Social'
In a posting on the Official Google Blog, Product Manager Mussie Shore said Friend Connect is now available in beta to anyone "looking to add 'a dash of social'" by just copying and pasting a few lines of code.
And Facebook founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company is "transforming the Web into a more social place where Facebook's users can engage in trusted social experiences with their friends."
Facebook said more than 100 sites participated in the testing that preceded Thursday's announcements, or will join in the near future. They include CNET, CNN.com/Forum, Gawker, Joost, MoveOn, alumni associations of the University of Toronto and Oregon State, and others.
The results of the testing showed that two out of three new registrations for those sites came through Facebook Connect, and those users engaged about 50 percent more than non-Facebook Connect users.
When using Facebook Connect on other sites, users had a consistent identity across sites, could take their friends list with them, could control their privacy settings, and could share actions they took on sites with Facebook friends via a news feed.
Google's Friend Connect
Google's Friend Connect was first offered in a limited preview in May, and the company said it has since been working with "a handful" of sites and developers to test it. Additionally, it said the beta release has expanded features, such as more integrated profiles and new ways to add and share content, including YouTube videos.
Google noted that it uses open standards like OpenID and the OAuth data-portability standard, and that Web sites participating in Friend Connect become containers for OpenSocial, which means they can run applications created by the community of OpenSocial developers.
When signing in, users can use a Google, Yahoo, AIM or OpenID account. As with Facebook Connect, this allows other sites to utilize social data from a particular user, such as friend lists, ratings and profile information.
Brad Shimmin, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis, said the announcements could mark the beginning of a time when social-networking information is primarily housed with the vendor of your choice, such as Facebook, and then "federated" to others in that network as you indicate.
He pointed out that there are privacy concerns for both users and sites, and that privacy management will need to be easy and transparent for users. But, in any case, Shimmin noted that we're not there yet, although a single sign-on is certainly a first step.