Google Friend Connect Only Half Open - InformationWeek

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5/13/2008
10:00 AM
Alexander Wolfe
Alexander Wolfe
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Google Friend Connect Only Half Open

You gotta give Google props for its openness, in terms of its executives speaking in plain English and not treating a launch as an excuse to engage in robotic sloganeering. (Remember "We'll release it when our customers tell us it's ready"?) On the other hand, the problem with Google's new Friend Connect is that it's nowhere near as open as competitive offerings from Facebook and MySpace. Hey, Google, open means open. What part don't you understand?

You gotta give Google props for its openness, in terms of its executives speaking in plain English and not treating a launch as an excuse to engage in robotic sloganeering. (Remember "We'll release it when our customers tell us it's ready"?) On the other hand, the problem with Google's new Friend Connect is that it's nowhere near as open as competitive offerings from Facebook and MySpace. Hey, Google, open means open. What part don't you understand?First, a quick explanation is in order. Friend Connect is Google's response to Facebook Connect and MySpace Data Availability. The objective of all three is to enable data on one's "friends" -- you know, those aggregations of co-workers and long-lost classmates you've corralled into being your Facebook friends -- to be shared with third parties.

The idea is that, pretty soon, when you go to any site, any app that pops up will show your list of friends in a little window, probably also indicating which of them are on line, so that you can ping them with the latest cool blog post you've seen, or whatever. (I really think "whatever" should be the Web 3.0 catchphrase.)

What this amounts to on a competitive basis is that Facebook, MySpace, and now Google are all competing for who will be the maintainer of the bulk of the Web's "friend" data, the thinking being that people aren't going to maintain multiple friends lists forever. (Currently, most of us do maintain two or three. But I guess this is about the limit; you can't expect folks to maintain six separate social databases, not if you want them to get any work done during their daily surfing.)

OK, so what's my beef with Google's Friend Connect? It's that Google doesn't pass its data on the third party. It maintains the data on its own server and the third party has to display it in an iFrame. As well, as was apparent during Google's press conference on Monday, which I listened in to via conference call, Google is vetting the third parties it will allow to use this stuff. So you have to "apply" to Google and they'll approve you. I know, they want to ensure that only "real" sites have access to this stuff, and that some bunch of pervs doesn't get a hold of the data.

Still, Facebook isn't holding on so tightly, instead doing the oversight function via tight terms of services (i.e., you screw up and you're gone.)

So where I'm coming from is this (and please forgive me that I sound like Richard Stallman): Open means open. Either you're fully open, or you're not. Facebook seems like it's headed in that direction. Google, not.

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