Just yesterday, I read about AOL launching Social Thing for websites. Adding the service to your website gives you a navigation bar at the bottom of the page, users can sign in with their AIM/AOL/Bebo/ICQ ids and comment. They can also chat/IM, check out what their buddies are doing, and share stuff with them. According to Mashable, “Authentication goes through AOL’s Open Authentication API, which is being extended to include support for a single sign-on from Facebook, Google, Yahoo, OpenID and other services.”
As TechCrunch mentions in its article which talks about Facebook opening its stream API to developers, the conversation wars are heating up. Facebook Connect and its potential is something I’ve written about several times before. Broadly, as a site owner, the implementation of FB Connect allows me to broadcast my content to my Facebook audience, and if they comment using FB Connect, it gets added to their stream thus multiplying the reach. As a commenter, I can share my activities on other sites on my FB stream. The opening of the API enhances the potential for FB stream conversations to happen outside FB.
Meanwhile, a few days back, there was also a news about Twitter Connect. Obviously, since Twitter has very less profile data as compared to FB, it need not be seen as a competitor to FB Connect, but seen from a “conversation platform choice” perspective, i’d say it still is. For those interested in how each of these Connect services work, this is an excellent detailed read.
And what Connect conversation can be complete without the omnipresent Google. Before we get to Friend Connect, a detour. Google recently decided to give us more control of how we would be seen in a search result page – Google Profiles will now be part of search results and we can edit it. In addition to regular data, you can showcase links to your profiles on services like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and so on. While Google claims its just responding to users’ needs, its obviously aimed at getting more user data. However, the profiles will only be shown at the bottom of the search pages, and will not ‘save’ you if you’ve been making news otherwise. I assumed that the Profiles so created would be in sync with what gets displayed on Google Friend Connect, but apparently its not so. But you can have a vanity url (google.com/profiles/your name) so long as its connected to your gmail id. You can get a detailed report on the new Profiles here.
Back to Google Friend Connect, once implemented on your site, it allows users to log in using GMail/Open ID/Yahoo/AIM . Users can comment, rate etc (depending on the gadgets you’ve added), engage with other users, and invite their friends from other networks to check out the site. There are many related things I am thinking of – will Profile and Friend Connect be made to work in sync, and is Google doing the opposite of what FB has done? FB created a social network first and then decided to connect other sites with it and thus enhance its own lifestream. With Google’s many services, it has a ‘disaggregated’ social network in place – YouTube/Picasa/Blogger/(even) Reader. At some point will Profile be just the equivalent of the ‘Info’ tab on Facebook and something like iGoogle (or God forbid Orkut) serve as the aggregator of one’s conversations across the web, not just across Google services, but the sites in which one logs in using Friend Connect. Google is always hungry for more data on users, so it can build more (and truth be told, sometimes better – like the proposed new Google News) products and get more data and obviously find more ways of making money.
Of the four, Facebook is now using its Connect on popular sites to add more layers to its existing user data and increase the conversations on Facebook. The opening of the stream API should get us some interesting apps. We’ll have to see what AOL does with its new service, how it ties it with Bebo etc. Twitter Connect is in many ways a different animal altogether, its simplicity and existing third party applications throw open many possibilities (as always) The data just goes back to Twitter, and it can be argued both ways whether Twitter Connect can be used effectively to increase a site’s visibility in the open yet ‘noisy’ stream, but the commenting using Twitter login would be useful to quite a few people (a wild thought – maybe Twitter should just buy Friendfeed and make that its base social network). Google Connect is easy to implement and interesting gadgets are sure to happen. The possibilities of aggregating it into a network remain. Now I wonder if Microsoft will find new ways to connect, or will they just Vine? As for Yahoo, maybe they’ll connect with Microsoft finally!! What will be interesting is what handle you would use to connect.
until next time, connecting people ain’t just Nokia’s job no more
PS. 6 years of blogging. A week’s break.