Will Google Friend Connect deliver the promise?

friendconnect-logo I’m doing a little experiment on this site with Google Friend Connect, a new service in beta from Google that was announced in May.

Some sites are receiving invitations to sign up; this site is one of those.

According to Google, this service is all about building website traffic and what they call ‘user engagement’:

  • Anyone can join your site with one click by using their existing Google, Yahoo and other accounts.
  • Visitors can evangelize for your site by inviting their friends and publishing their activities to their social networks.
  • Social gadgets will keep these visitors more deeply engaged with your site, and with each other.

It all sounds terribly simple including how it works.

[…] [With Google Friend Connect] any website owner can add a snippet of code to his or her site and get social features up and running immediately without programming — picking and choosing from built-in functionality like user registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting, and reviews, as well as third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.

Visitors to any site using Google Friend Connect will be able to see, invite, and interact with new friends, or, using secure authorization APIs, with existing friends from social sites on the web, including Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, orkut, Plaxo, and more.

It even seems a bit like Facebook Connect which was widely regarded as a response to MySpace ‘Data Availability.’

So these social features would include things like a member community where people can sign in to a blog and then be able to do things there like invite their friends to join them at your place, write on a wall (just like in Facebook), and more.

I like Patrick Altoft’s big-picture view:

[…] The service is pretty big news for bloggers and anybody who has a fair amount of traffic and wants to make their site more social. […] Giving Google access to ratings, comments and reviews of my posts could be pretty helpful in terms of [search engine optimization] if Google starts to integrate this into the algorithm. If they know that 50 trusted Google users have recommended a post on my blog then it will rank better than another post that has received very poor ratings. This is the biggest step yet towards social data being included in search.

I wonder how compelling people will find the overall promise of Google Friend Connect. I’ve never been compelled by similar tools (as I perceive them) from a user perspective: for instance a community or member gallery tool like MyBlogLog.

That’s mainly because I’ve never been entirely convinced that I can really trust any of them with my data, nor that by giving them information about me, I wouldn’t get email spam forevermore.

community-nevilleAs I’m willing to give Google some trust with Friend Connect, that’s where I’m starting this experiment: a community or gallery tool embedded in the sidebar on the right of your screen a click or two down on the scrollbar. (RSS and email subscribers, you’ll have to come to the website to see it.)

The screenshot here of that tool shows an aspect that I think could make it appealing to people who sign up to be a community member.

Here you see my profile info that shows some of the other places on the web where I have a presence. That info is pulled from the details I’ve already added into my Google account.

Convenient – a one-stop place to connect with other members of your community in all the places where they are.

Looking at this example, it makes me aware of the kind of information that is in your profile data on various different services, and how that information is displayed when pulled by another service.

It doesn’t include a link to my Facebook profile, for instance. Nor LinkedIn. So if such services were important to me, I’d ensure that I keep my profile data accurate and up to date, wherever that data is located. Having it in one place – such as in a Google account – is easier for updating if there’s just one place to update.

This requires a great deal of trust, though. As I mentioned, I’m comfortable with the level of overall trust I have in Google, yet I’m aware of others who see Google as an evil empire. Horses for courses.

What do you think of Google Friend Connect? Would you sign up? If so, do you think it would give you some or any of the promise Google offers in its description (and see the explanatory video on YouTube)? Does it offer you something you can’t get anywhere else, or get in a way that’s different/better/more useful/easier than elsewhere?

From the perspective of Google (and the social networks you connect with via the community aspects of Friend Connect), is this service really more about the beginning transition to a Google economy which includes much greater and more seamless data linking?

And what do you think of the overall concept of Google Friend Connect as an example of Open Social implementation?

I really would like to know how you see it.

I’ll run this experiment until the end of the year at least, depending on how much interest it attracts.

Communication Leader, Social Media Leader, Consultant, Digital Change Agent, Speaker with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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