Does Google Friend Connect have a point?

Early last month, I signed up for Google Friend Connect, the service that Google says lets you offer visitors to your site the means to be part of a community.

It’s great, I think, as in a very short space of time, the number of people who have joined this site through Google Friend Connect has now reached ninety.

On the site, in the right-hand sidebar (scroll down a bit to see it), you’ll find the Google Friend Connect widget which is where you interact with the service.

googlefriendconnect
So ninety people, all of whom I’m thrilled to see as part of a community at NevilleHobson.com, as well as in quite a few other places around the web. Some of these 90 are also friends, 15 so far in fact. Great!

I have to ask, though – what is the point of Google Friend Connect?

I’ve googled for “how does google friend connect work”. That always produces lots of results to tell me, well, how it works but not how it works, if you see what I mean.

Posts like How Google Friend Connect Works on the Google Code Blog. Helpful, no question.

Yet – and I’m sorry if I seem ignorant, but I really do want to know – I still ask: What’s the point of it? Why would I want to be part of Google Friend connect on someone’s blog, or someone join it on my blog? Once we all do that, then what?

One post that also turns up in the Google search I mentioned earlier is Google Friend Connect: What’s the Point? (a pretty apt title, I must say) on Web Worker Daily.

Now, these are folk who know an awful lot more about Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect, OpenID, etc, than I do. And if they’re asking the same question, then, Houston, we have a problem.

Can anyone offer an answer? Thanks.

Related post:

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. @toddlucier

    Hi Neville:
    I think the point of friendconnect is simple.
    Who hangs out here?
    What are their interests? – via Google Profiles.
    Anyone here I’d like to connect with on their turf – their blogs, twitterings, etc.

    Google Friend Connect makes lots of sense if users be sure to keep an updated profile (think: business card) which is accessible at http://www.google.com/s2/profiles/me for anyone with a Google Account.

    The benefits are shown when each person has an updated personal profile.

    The nice thing about having one, is it’s data is displayed (in context) across all kinds of Web sites you frequent.

    Here’s my profile, and you’ll see some of the data if users click on my icon in the Friend Connect Widget.
    http://www.google.com/s2/profiles/117194823555757103508?hl=en

  2. matt lambert

    Hi Neville

    Common interests build communities, and to that extent, I can see the other people who were at least vaguely interested in what you had to say on this, or other subjects :-) So, the thought must go that I can now connect with those people of ‘like minds’.

    Can you characterise people this way, it’s debatable. But if you were in turn interested in the people who visited your site, then you could take time exploring their profiles and links – and return the favour (that they gave you some attention), and maybe even start a conversation. I think I may be talking myself into using it.

    Or is this too obvious an answer? My apologies if so…

    Regards, Matt

  3. Jeff De Cagna

    Neville, I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me the point of using GFC will be to add a measure of social interaction on my new site (coming in March) in a way that is simple both for me and for the end user. I have no illusions about being able to actively cultivate and sustain a community around my site/blog. My hope is that by facilitating some organic connectedness, it will encourage more conversation, sharing and learning around the issues my readers care about most.

    I also think that adding social features through Google will be viewed more favorably by my site’s audience. Google is familiar, thus it is seen as serious and trustworthy, which should reduce any concerns about using it among my readers.

    I don’t know if this is response is directly on point to your question, but it is my two cents. I look forward to the observations of others.

  4. Shel Holtz

    As you know, I’ve set up the same feature on my blog, but have added a link to a “wall” feature, not unlike Facebook’s. Anybody who has registered on my site can post to the wall. So far, only one person has, and I’m not actively promoting it, but I can see how, on some sites, the addition of this functionality can make FriendConnect a but more useful. Here’s the page I set up for the “wall:”
    http://blog.holtz.com/index.php/weblog/FriendConnect

  5. Craig McGinty

    I connect with people after reading their comments on articles such as this, I struggle to connect with a 40×40 image stuck in the sidebar.

    That’s why Twitter and FriendFeed are proving successful, you can build up an idea of a person maybe from just one intriguing comment, or a series of messages, but both services offer a valuable insight into a person in an appealing way.

  6. neville

    Todd, thanks for that explanation. Understand, yet it seems too complicated. Google Profiles? Does anyone know what they are? Shel’s example seems to me to be on the right track: simple, easy to understand and use and meets the needs of those who love to write on people’s walls, as in Facebook (yet isn’t that what Twitter is, in another way of looking at Twitter?).

    Jeff, understand your goals with it. How is that different to commenting on posts and the connectedness of trackbacks?

    Craig, that makes sense to me, too. Comments and tools like Twitter and Friendfeed (and maybe especially Friendfeed) are community already, are they not? And in a way that connects across the net.

    So I’m still not too clear about GFC.

  7. Jeff De Cagna

    Neville, my hope is that GFC will encourage more comments and trackbacks because there will be other opportunities for social exchange between and among the “members” who sign up. I like Shel’s wall installation and I may steal that for my new site. And GFC’s integration with Twitter and other social sites should provide additional ways to connect people with my content, with each other and with ways to create content socially.

    I suppose what I am trying to do is increase the surface area for possible attraction to my site. Will it work? I’ll let you know in about six months. Once I’ve had a chance to see how the experiment works, I’ll share my deeper insights.

  8. Mark Czerniec

    I was wondering the same thing. The comment function seems redundant to the comments that are already there. On the other hand, both myself and someone else have joined my site as members, so clearly my site is in the very early stages of viral.

  9. Anthony Lawrence

    Yeah, I added it but am thinking of taking it down. Their “wall” comment system is awful – no paragraph breaks, no formatting features at all. The GFC “profiles” are weak also.

    I only keep it now because it adds a little color and that’s a pretty silly reason.

  10. Bryan Person

    Neville:

    I’ve had the very same question about Google Friend Connect, and based on your post and others’ answers here in the comments, I’m still in the camp that there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to it — at least not yet.

    Bryan | @BryanPerson

  11. Brian

    Since GFC is open, not limited to a specific social network or online community, the expansion of this presence can go on for infinity. That alone can allow an online business to grow exponentially in a very short period of time. With more and more people actively investing time with GFC and new, future gadgets introduced for implementation on blogs and sites, the ability to convert visitors into ad revenue generating visitors will increase dramatically for all.

    See my blog post: “Why Google Friend Connect is a Must for Bloggers” @ http://tr.im/cvbk

    Brian
    Owner, FriendConnectDirectory.com

  12. Robert

    WHY DOESN’T ANYONE GET IT!?

    Ask yourself a question:
    How did I discover content before the web?
    “Content” relates to books, films, a new type of pickle etc, anything.
    The answer is you read the paper, which is an opinion of someone with whom you feel politically or socially aligned, you watched telly (same), but mostly you gained information from friends (the term friends means people you were friendly with, but also work colleges and anyone else with whom you had/have a connection).

    In the early days of the web it was fairly easy to find something that interested you on surfing on your own. There was less junk and the web wasn’t SO FECKING HUGE!!

    Now fast-forward to today.
    You are signed up on a few social services like Twitter, Facebook etc, and this helps you overcome your content discovery problem somewhat. By making “connections” on these island sites.
    People discover a site they like and then they twitter about it or post it to Facebook and “expose it” to their “friends”.
    BUT, wouldn’t it be better if, instead of, when you find a site you like, you just join it and “expose it to your friends”?!
    All without having to pop back over to the little (or bigger) island and without having to make a new username and password.
    GFC is an implementation of OpenSocial: and if you remember the catchphrase was “make the whole web social”.

    If you still don’t understand then pop over to the site I am building and take a look at my profile. You will notice that it may look basically the same, but that although I have “joined” this site, that my GFC “activities” do not list me joining this site…..
    Why? because I am interested in this discussion, but I am not interested in “exposing” this site to my friends (none of them have a clue what GFC is yet).

    This “web connect” model won’t become clear until OpenSocial or GFC has broader penetration across the web. That is why people don’t yet “get it”.
    But as far as the long tail is concerned OpenSocial is the much better model than the single piped Facebook Connect model type.

  13. greg

    There’s no question in my book what it’s for. But that’s because what I publish isn’t merely a “blog,” but an integrated catalog/database of expert reviews. Users have always asked for their own user reviews on the site, yet the thought of the whole “army of amateurs” concept of Yelp seemed more than pointless to me. Still, I wanted a way to add them to appease the masses, keep the wall between the gardens of the washed and unwashed, and do it with zero effort.

    Enter GFC. Fit the bill perfectly.

    I think those who ask the question of “what GFC is for?” reflects the type of amateur publisher in question. If you publish little more than a glorified Twitter feed, it won’t make much sense.

  14. cardeo

    I also have it installed on my blog and I feel a little bit the same. However, I’m taking the wait and see approach. It doesn’t take much effort to set it up and the possibilities of what google could do with it down the road are positive. Therefore, why not implement it now and start from the ground up?

  15. Chris Lang

    First of all Google Friend Connect is going to blow us all away with something so hot we will not believe it. It has to do more than it appears too.

    Second, the social features on YouTube are GFC, I can tell. So Google Friend Connect is now in full release running the 6th largest property in the Internet world and the second most trafficked search engine.

    In the mean time I took all my public articles and compiled them going all the way back to August 2008, updated them and documented the news I broke back then that Gmail and Reader is the immediate front end most will use.

    http://knol.google.com/k/chris-lang/google-friend-connect/1m8w0yimfpnl3/1

    Of course I am open to contributions, frankly I need the help. LOL

    Chris Lang

  16. Chris Lang

    If you would like I would love to chat with you and maybe we could do a interview on GFC and what it is really intended to do. Just shout me at the email submitted.

  17. Mike Sweet

    With all levels of connection and interaction there will always be good and bad points. GFC can be used in both ways, however now the days of social interaction and networking are well established we can all only benefit.

    The more connections we have to the more of the common interest we have can only be beneficial. Until we begin to match PIN numbers! Then we’ve gone too far with the social invation.

  18. David Holmes

    With all levels of connection and interaction there will always be good and bad points. GFC can be used in both ways, As with all systems etc it really boils down to the end users and how they use/abuse the structre.

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