social graph as the foundational components that will drive the social Web. Where we once focused on going to a destination - particular social network to participate - we will now begin to carry components of social networks along with us, wherever we go. In the next phase of the social Web, every site will become social.If the initial development race of Web 2.0 centered around "building a better social network" then the next phase will certainly focus on extending the reach of existing social networks beyond their current domain. How? By using the elements of the
To date, Google Friend Connect, Yahoo! Open Strategy, and Facebook Connect have all been rushing to take the lead in this next phase. Today, The New York Times reports that Facebook has taken another step forward by delivering Connect functionality to new crop of sites.
While the first group of sites that were allowed to leverage Connect - CBS The Insider, CNN The Forum, Connected Weddings, Global Grind, Govit, Indie GoGo, MoveOn.org, and Red Bull - were a good test case, Facebook is stepping into a whole new realm with its next round of sites - Discovery Channel, The San Francisco Chronicle, Geni, Hulu, and Digg. It's a safe bet that Digg will be the most interesting test case to date.
What Does Facebook Connect Do?
Facebook Connect proposes to make data and friend connections currently held within the walled garden of Facebook accessible to other services. This has two distinct benefits, one for the sites and one for Facebook.
For the participating sites, Facebook Connect provides more social functionality without a great deal of additional development. A new user can opt to share the profile information in Facebook instead of developing a new account. This gives the user access to the site and its services without the tedium of developing yet another profile on yet another site. In addition, users can use the relationship information in Facebook to connect to their friends on the other services. In short, it makes the new partner site an extension of Facebook.
And that hits upon the distinct benefit for Facebook: more data. Before Connect, Facebook's understanding of user behavior was relegated to what occurred on Facebook and, potentially, through third-party Facebook apps. With Connect, Facebook will extend its reach exponentially. In so doing, it will gather even more data on Facebook users, whether they're within the walled garden or not.
Facebook Beacon, Part 2?
One of Facebook's primary marketing concerns with Facebook Connect has been to extend the value of its advertising-based revenue model while - obviously - avoiding the debacle that was Facebook Beacon. That has pushed Facebook to pursue a slow, methodical release of Connect, proceeding with caution to avoid any similar gaffs.
For now, they have the luxury of time. Facebook has continued to roll out their distributed social offering more quickly than the competition. And no doubt, they're learning a few things along the way that will give them a decided advantage over similar services.
But can they turn that early lead into a decisive victory?
Adoption Is the Key
If Facebook beats everyone else to the party, that doesn't mean they've won the race. The true value for Facebook is getting users to adopt Facebook Connect and extend their profiles to these external sites. Adoption will be the true deciding factor.
And that's why this new group of Facebook Connect sites will be interesting to watch. With the first group, Facebook was able to prove the concept had merit. With this latest group, they will be working to prove that users actually want to use the service.
Will Digg users be willing to connect their profiles and begin shouting to their Facebook friends? Is there a great deal of crossover between Facebook users and Discovery Channel? Will enough Facebook users watch the latest SNL skit on Hulu to provide useful data?
It's safe to assume that there is crossover between Facebook and any number of sites. But, the question remains: will the population of users who opt to use Connect be large enough to pay off? It's hard to say. We'll just have to wait and see how Connect performs in the wild.