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 http://www.google.com/friendconnect (update: the page is live) and the service should be launched in a couple of months.