announced last night a partnership that will integrate a user's Facebook friends into their AOL Instant Messenger. The announcement came on a day when Google announced its new attempt at capturing your social attention with Google Buzz and Yahoo! reminded us from the outskirts that they've been at this game for a year now.According to Facebook and AOL Mercury News, about 70% of AOL users also use Facebook and the move is a sign of where AOL is heading, but we wonder if it isn't more a sign of where Facebook is heading and has been all along.
The partnership will use Facebook Connect to import a user's Facebook friends into their AIM contacts, enabling chat directly between the two services. This will allow AIM's 17 million users to continue using AIM while being able to keep in touch with their existing friends on AIM.
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The Great MigrationsIf you think back to 2002, the big news was Friendster. For many of us, it was the first time we'd joined a social network and we went wild adding friends. Then, in 2003, Myspace came along and we slowly started adding these same friends on Myspace until one day the virtual cobwebs became too much and we left Friendster altogether. And then came Facebook and we did it again.
Let's face it - if we can avoid it, we'd rather not do this again and that's precisely what Facebook wants. Facebook has already become the dominant platform for social networking, but as it expands its business in other directions, we will begin to see it pull users away from other businesses too. This partnership is not only about preventing that, but further solidifying Facebook's place as our one, true login.
The more integrated Facebook becomes, the less willing we'll be to recreate that same web of social connections we've reinvented time and again.
While many of us may complain about Facebook's on-site chat breaking down, being slow or crashing our browsers, the fact remains that Facebook is where we've based our online social life and chat is a basic extension of this. AIM used to be one of the industry standards in this realm, but now it looks more like the company is hedging its bets and trying not to fall prey to the same circumstances that caused us to abandon other platforms.
Your One True LoginAs we wrote last month, users already prefer to use Facebook Connect by a margin of 2-to-1 and countless sites already let you make connections on their site by comparing their user base with your Facebook friends.
In this case, however, it isn't the connections that are being imported - real-time interaction with an external user base is being imported. Whether or not a particular friend has an account with AOL is irrelevant. The partnership reinforces the idea that our Facebook profile is at the center of our online existence. Whether or not someone is signed into AOL is no longer what's at stake here, it's whether or not the user is logged into Facebook.
While other integrations attempt to replicate our social connections, to port them over to the site we're on, this one makes no such demands. We can continue using AIM while taking advantage of the particular friend set we've likely spent the most time cultivating and grooming - our Facebook friends.