San Francisco -- Social networking giant Facebook said it is geared up to expand its new website called “Facebook Connect,” the long anticipated universal log-in service, to integrate functionalities with more third-party Web sites, now seems to be collecting more steam.
Originally announced on the Facebook Developers blog this summer, during the social network’s second annual F8 developer conference in San Francisco, Facebook Connect service enables the members of Facebook to bring their Facebook account information, friends and privacy to other third-party sites, desktop applications and devices, according to Dave Morin, Facebook senior platform manager.
“The social networking giant, it appears though, is planning to make an essential place for Web users and to add interconnectivity around the Web to its site.”
With the opening out of Facebook Connect, members will have the ability to use their profiles on the social networking site to log onto more third-party sites around the Web instead of setting up numerous accounts for as many online destinations.
According to a report published in The New York Times, in the coming few weeks, Facebook Connect will be working with a number of leading Web sites such as Discovery Channel, The San Francisco Chronicle, the social news site Digg, the genealogy site Geni and the online video hub Hulu, which will allow users to share their browsing and viewing activities with others on their Facebook news feeds.
The method in which the service will function goes like this: the user’s Facebook profile and log-in information will serve as a web “passport,” thus granting the user access to any of the partner websites.
While more sites come across the board and join Facebook Connect, subscribers to the social networking site will find noticeably placed Facebook Connect log-in links. Sites such as TheInsider.com and Govit.com make it simple with these highly visible links. Others, like CNN’s the Forum, have a more involved process.
“The service will also allow third-party Web sites to build their application, site or device more social through a few relatively easy-to-implement features,” Morin said in a statement.
The program increases the convenience factor for Web surfing, but privacy remains a major concern.
As of Monday, the Facebook Connect technology is now live.
The move promotes the concept of “data portability,” which includes portability of privacy settings. You may not, for example, want every site you visit to know who all your friends are, and for them to know every site you are visiting. Data portability does ease the problem of having to repeatedly enter information for every site you want to join.
Facebook Connect is similar to “OpenID,” whereas MySpace accomplishes the single sign-on using the OpenID, which is also supported by Google and Microsoft. The support from these major vendors gives the standard a potential base of hundreds of millions of users. MySpace’s version of data portability, dubbed “Data Availability,” is also more open than Facebook Connect.
The concept is similar to that adopted by Microsoft, when it attempted to take its Hotmail service to the next level. However, Microsoft’s password plan came to an abrupt end because of serious user security and privacy issues brought about by third-party sites.
However, Facebook is advancing with extreme caution following the disaster surrounding the launch of Beacon about a year ago. The Beacon advertising program stirred a heavy debate over privacy issues after Facebook members were automatically opted-in to the program. Facebook later tightened its privacy options.
At the F8 conference, the company also announced that support for iPhone apps was also in the works. A feature that could be attractive to many Facebook users is the ability to deliver News Feed items such as requests and notifications via the third-party sites.
However, Facebook Connect has already been tested on some sites such as: CBS, Citysearch, CollegeHumor, Kongregate, Loopt, Plaxo, Radar, Red Bull, Disney-ABC TV, Evite, Flock, Hulu, Seesmic, Six Apart, Socialthing, StumbleUpon, Twitter, Uber, Vimeo and Xobn.
As for Facebook’s approach, it looks to be a good one. By selling Facebook Connect to users as a way to reduce the clutter of multiple social networks and consolidate into a single “go to” spot for all information friends are posting, watching and reading, the Web gets a little bit smaller. While that may seem trivial, there are a lot of Web personalities -- not to mention aggregation sites, like FriendFeed -- that have tried it before without widespread adoption.
But again, the initiative is to expand the reach of Facebook by making the site more social across a larger swath of the Web.