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Open Beta of Google Friend Connect Coming Soon?

Just about half a year ago, Google announced a limited beta of Friend Connect, which allows site owners to display OpenSocial based gadgets on their sites and site visitors to sign in to these social gadgets with their OpenID, AIM, Yahoo, or Google accounts.

Amit Agarwal has been keeping a close eye on Friend Connect since it was announced and he assumes that the service could go live pretty soon. Just last week, Google published a new YouTube video geared towards users and now the support site for Friend Connect is available as well.

Some of the gadgets Google currently supplies are a comment wall and a ratings gadget. Friend Connect will also work with third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community. To enable these gadgets, all a site owner has to do is to copy and paste some code snippets into their site’s HTML.

Google Profiles Meets MyBlogLog

Lately, Google has started to put a lot more emphasis on its own user profiles, and Friend Connect makes good use of them. Once you join a Friend Connect enabled site, other users will be able to see information from your profile, though you can set your privacy settings to disallow others from seeing your profile pages as well. In many ways, this is quite similar to MyBlogLog.

It’s Social, But is it Open?

When Friend Connect was first announced, we were concerned about the direction Google was taking with this implementation of the OpenSocial standards. Also, as we noted in our earlier posts, the Friend Connect apps are displayed in an iframe, which is basically a separate web page inside another web page. Because of this, these apps are black boxes that live on your site, but don’t allow the site owners to really leverage the data from these apps on their own sites.

It is interesting to note that the latest Google video about Friend Connect still prominently features Facebook as a supported service, even though Facebook has decided to eschew OpenSocial in favor of its own platform. The help pages for Friend Connect don’t feature a list of supported services yet.


There are, however, also some clear benefits to using Friend Connect. Through this service, a site owner might be able to create more user loyalty and enthusiastic readers can evangelize your site by publishing their activity on it to their own social network. Visitors will also be able to invite their friends on social networks to join your site.

In an early press release about Friend Connect, Google stated that this initiative was about helping the ‘long tail’ of sites to become more social. While we might worry about  some of the details of Google’s implementation, this by itself is a worthy cause, and it will be interesting to see how site owners will implement Friend Connect once it becomes publically available.

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