Facebook launched its first social widget for use outside of Facebook's own site today: the Comments Box. The Comments Box is a comments widget that was built on top of Facebook Connect, and that will allow bloggers and publishers to easily implement a Facebook Connect enabled commenting system on their sites. A number of sites already used Facebook Connect to make it easier for their users to sign in to their services and leave comments, but this is the first time that Facebook itself ventures into this business.

Competition

Google, of course, already offers a similar service with Google Friend Connect, though this offers far more features than just the ability to leave comments. Google also allows users to sign in with an OpenID account, as well as with accounts from other vendors, including Yahoo and AOL. In the announcement, Facebook stresses that this is just the first of a number of social widgets based on Facebook Connect that the company is planning to release in the near future.

It is important to note that other commenting services like JS-Kit already allow users to use their Facebook Connect logins - something that Facebook actually acknowledges in its announcement.

Features

Publishers will be able to customize the widget and moderate comments, though it is not clear what this moderation will look like. Users without a Facebook Connect ID will also be able to leave comments, but we will have to wait and see how well Facebook's widget will be able handle the inevitable spam that will come with this.

One nice feature of the Facebook Connect widget is that your comments are not only posted to your Facebook profile, but that additional comments that your friends make on Facebook in reference to your comment will also appear on the originating site. This, as Nick O'Neill points out, is similar to what a number of blog plugins like IntenseDebate are doing with comments left on Friendfeed right now. For publishers, this also means that their content is going to get a wider exposure on Facebook.

However, while being able to use the Facebook Connect ID to sign into a comments system is nice, most publishers are probably looking for a system that can handle a wider range of sign-on credentials. Facebook is now a member of the OpenID Foundation, but the widget only supports Facebook Connect IDs.

Breaking out of the Silo

What is most important about this announcement, though, is that Facebook continues to open up its platform to third parties. Earlier this month, third-party developers got access to users' status updates, notes, and links. Now, Facebook is allowing bloggers and publishers to implement some of Facebook's core features outside of Facebook's own site. Facebook use to be a closed off silo, but this is changing rapidly right now and it will be interesting to see how Facebook's users will react to this.