Google just launched a preview of their newest social networking effort called Friend Connect. In a nutshell, Google FC is a free service that allows owners to turn their sites into a community – without having to install any applications or perform programming. With a simple copy-and-paste of Google-generated code, one can have the ability to let visitors sign in and become part of the site’s user group. Once in, users can post reviews/comments and their own pictures on the site via widgets, enriching the site’s content and making it more dynamic. Other “social” functionalities are available via code snippet, all based on the OpenSocial platform.
Viral. For site owners, one of the best incentives for using Google Friend Connect is viral distribution. FC users have the option to publish their activities in their social networks. For example, if they post a comment on your site, that instance will automatically be shown on their profile along with a link to your site (passive sharing). These activities are usually sent as feeds to their friends, thus giving you a tremendous amount of exposure.
Convenience. Visitors can sign in using the existing Google, Yahoo, AIM, or OpenID account. By integrating Google Friend Connect to your site, you make it easier for your visitors to actively share your site. A lot of people join multiple social networks just to keep up with their scattered friends. Members of your community can use the Friend Connect interface to invite their friends across multiple social networks to look at your site.
Issues. In the current trial version of Google Friend Connect, the only actively linked social networking sites are Orkut and GoogleTalk. Hi5 is posted as “coming soon” while in a controversial move, Facebook disabled Friend Connect. This has already been addressed in a statement by Google. Mark Zuckerberg has announced his readiness to talk to Google to address Facebook’s privacy concerns. If Friend Connect becomes successful, other networks will be sure to follow. Aside from privacy and security, it’s also interesting to see the amount of control afforded to the site owner in terms of editing any offensive user content posted on his site. It’s only a matter of time ‘til spammers leave their mark.
Personally, I hope those two giants work things out as fast as possible. I see Friend Connect as a great step forward in social media, working for site owners and users alike. The enormous potential of this service is more than enough to give it a shot. If you want to see Google Friend Connect in action, try to visit this preview site partner. The stop-motion clay animation is not bad, either.