It might be time for Nokia to rethink that line, thanks to the following recent launches- Google Friend Connect and Facebook Connect, both of which offer data portability across sites which have implemented the services. It got me thinking about online identities. Before we get to that, a bit of introduction.

Facebook Connect, when implemented on a website allows any user to log in using their Facebook credentials and use that identity to comment etc, and also transmits these activities back to Facebook. FB seems to have focused on popular web services like Digg, Hulu, among others, and a couple of entities that got me interested in the deal – Disqus (soon) and Twitter. It perhaps hopes to use their massive user base, to popularise itself. On the other hand, Google  seems to be have the average blogger in mind, and has tied up with Yahoo, AIM, Open Id and now Twitter to have a common login across websites that have implemented Google Friend Connect. A good comparison can be found here.

As a blogger, Facebook Connect seems to be a more difficult thing to set up, but implementation in individual blogs will be helped by the plugins (esp on WordPress). I’m wondering whether FB will try to seed this service through the Blog Networks app that’s quite popular there. FB Connect does offer great advantages thanks to the social connect that is brought about by the usage details being transmitted back to Facebook.   So if I had installed FB Connect on this site, and you had used your FB id to login and comment, the fact that you’d commented would be shown on your newsfeed on FB, thereby giving that extra exposure to this site. Although Facebook assures data security and privacy, it does seem a little like opening your FB account to the world, since a lot of profile details will get displayed when you use the FB Connect service. The other question I have is whether these activities become the property of Facebook by virtue of appearing in the newsfeed? (I remember the old controversy on ownership of content uploaded on FB)

Google Friend Connect seems to be quite easy to set up, and in that sense makes it simpler for a regular blogger to adopt it. The snag is that inspite of the Invite option, I don’t get much additional exposure since the usage information doesn’t get reflected anywhere (not even Orkut). I wonder if Google will have a one click installation of the service in the next version of Blogger. I am also thinking about where Ad Sense will be made to fit into all this.

And now to the identity part. I blog as manuscrypts, a handle that I have used for more than 5.5 years now. For most of those years, the real me could only be pieced together from various posts I’d written. With the increasing usage of social/business networking services like Facebook and LinkedIn, my real world identity is not exactly a secret now. If i choose to comment on any blog using FB/Google Friend Connect, it has to be using the ‘real identity’, unless I create profiles only for my virtual self. :)

On one hand, a portable identity across the web, and the advantages it offers are tempting, on the other hand I’m not sure whether I want all these networks to be talking to each other – when I comment on a social media site, I wouldn’t want the other users of the site to see my tagged photos on FB.  So far, I’d controlled what information about me goes to a contact, depending on his/her relationship with me. Different amounts of data for different levels of friendship. Yes, my profile is open on FB, but I don’t advertise it outside. That will not be the case if I use FB Connect. More importantly, I don’t want an entity like Google (which invokes paranoia in me) to know everything about me. The sad part is that I dont think an increase in transparency will improve personal integrity, tolerance etc, but that’s a different debate altogether.

Me? I’ll wait a while before I encourage the use of either service on this site, who knows, maybe a LinkedIn Connect might come about. For now, let me try this app, that adds a twitter identity to my commenting system. :)

until next time, connect :)