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May 12, 2008

Spreading OpenSocial Across the Web

Any web site can be a container for OpenSocial, any web site can add social features even if it's not a social network - that seems to be the idea behind Friend Connect, a new piece from Google's social puzzle. Friend Connect will allow the users of a site to add profiles, to import their friends from other social networks, to use social applications in the context of a site.

Paul Buchheit wrote last year that "there's no such thing as a social network". The social aspect of a site is just one of its many features. "Real products need more functionality in order to somehow deliver value to their users. It is this other functionality that defines the real purpose of a product, not the social network, which exists only to enable or enhance the core purpose."

Friend Connect is an enabler for making web sites more social, since the barrier to entry is really low. "First, many website owners want to add features that enable their visitors to do things with their friends, but the technology and resource hurdles have been too high. Second, people are tiring of needing to create new logins and profiles and recreate their friends lists wherever they go on the web." Google will use OpenID or Google Accounts for authentication, OAuth or APIs like Facebook Connect, MySpace Data Availability to find your friends from other social networks and OpenSocial gadgets to interact with your friends.

"Social is in the air. It's the blossoming of a lot of work by a lot of people. We don't move in lockstep and don't need to. We converge on interoperable technology. There's more than one way to connect a site to the social Web. With Friend Connect, we're confident it's a good step forward. I'm sure there will be more ways to do that than what Friend Connect does. We wanted to start with easiest and safest starting point," said Google's David Glazer in a conference call.

A preview of Friend Connect will be available later today at (update: the page is live) and the service should be launched in a couple of months.


  1. This is going to be huge, absolutely huge.

    The ease with which the blogging community can integrate these into their blogs, will be enough in itself to guarantee its success.

    Another neat aspect, is that for any new quality blogs it could make for easier viral growth of them :-)

  2. I've been surprised how long it took Orkut to add the widget features long touted as the key to Facebooks future. Maybe the reason is that Orkut just represents a holding action (especially in Brazil and India) while Google renders the social-and-only-social service providers obsolete.

    Will be interesting to see how the uptake on this goes. Facebook and friends won't die overnight.

  3. I wonder whether this has something to do with hCard and XFN, while the Google's FriendConnect link is not working yet.

  4. I disagree with the idea that social networks are not an end to themselves... Hanging out with friends and getting appraised of how they're doing (when they're spread all over the world as in my case) is really really cool in itself.

    I do agree that we do want to "do stuff" together too, but i am totally happy and satisfied that people come first, and doing stuff comes second.

  5. @vahid:

    I think it all depends on how "end to themselves" means.

    The concept going around last year that somehow Facebook (and the like) would replace e-mail, blogs, and everything else on the Internet never made much sense to me. There are quite a few situations where an e-mail message is the best way to communicate, but Facebook (and the others) use e-mail in a spammy sort of way that is annoying to many of us. Basically a Facebook user types what would otherwise be an e-mail message which causes Facebook to e-mail me. But I can't just hit REPLY to that message. Instead I have to stop what I'm doing (processing e-mail) and go into Facebook.

    Someone asked me the other day if I had been signing onto Facebook much. I said "No, because I only have a few friends there and some of those friends don't like other of hose friends... and so on."

    In the mean time I sit here with AIM, Yahoo messenger, and MSN messenger running all day. What possible benefit is it for Facebook or Orkut to invent yet another instant messenger?

    For people who are hooked on Facebook and want to sit with their Facebook "home page" up all day that's fine, for them. But most of the world is not going to abandon the tools they have been using for years and join you. If Faceboook users want to send e-mail then either Facebook needs to add e-mail capability (along with all the servers and staff needed to support it) or they need to link up seamlessly with some other service that provides that.

    If Facebook wants to really open up their system so that users can mix and match their favorite ways of doing things, now is the perfect opportunity. If they want to continue being a walled garden holding users and their data captive, then I think they are going to learn how effective that strategy is in the long term. Maybe Zuckerberg is giving that some careful thought while he tours the world.

  6. Google is very late to this party! I hope they bring something new and useful. I don't need another MyBlogLog clone... unless the experience is vastly superior.