New Google Friend Connect tool helps sites be more friendly

Allows Web sites to add social networking features

Google is introducing a Web site tool called Friend Connect today that promises to extend the reach of social networks such as Facebook to any site that wants to use the tool. Those sites that decide to use Friend Connect can give visitors a much richer Web experience allowing even the smallest of Web sites the ability to leverage the enormous popularity of social networks.

Google is far from the first to offer ways to mishmash content, IDs and passwords between sites. In fact, as CNET's News.com and TechNewsWorld point out there is a dizzying number of similar data portability technologies being developed from Facebook Connect, MySpace Data Availability, and OpenID, DataPortabilit.

Google says its approach will be easier to use for Web site owners to implement. The code will be available later tonight from http://www.google.com/friendconnect.

How friend connect works

The way it works is any site that wants to can add Friend Connect functionality to their site can simply by adding a bit of HTML code to their site. The Friend Connect feature on a site acts as a small peephole on a Web page allowing content from a preselected social network (including Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, orkut, Plaxo and others) to be viewed within the predefined window.

In this way, Friend Connect seems to just be a way to pull information in from existing networks, almost like how it's possible to embed YouTube videos on your site with limited functionality. Similarly Friend Connect allows Web site visitors to "see, invite, and interact with new friends, or... with existing friends from social sites on the Web," as Google put it.

In one example of how Google Friend Connect will work the artist Ingrid Michaelson on her Web site will embed a Friend Connect window into her site which will contain content from the social music site iLike. Google explains: "fans who visit Ingrid's site can connect with their friends without having to leave the site. Visitors will be able to see comments by friends from their social networks, add music to their profiles, see who is attending concerts, and enjoy other features of the iLike application, all at Ingrid's website."

For users, Friend Connect-enabled sites can sidestep having to create an account for yet another social network. If a site adds Friend Connect code for Facebook, for example, you'll be able to sign up as a member using your Facebook login and see which of your Facebook friends are members of the site too.

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