Facebook Connect: The Social Graph Becomes More Social

Facebook Connect ButtonThis was the week that saw the official launch of Facebook Connect and Google’s Friend Connect.  To get caught up, read the Economist’s story about Facebook Connect, or get the Wall Street Journal’s take (subscription required).

A lot of the buzz around these new services focus on their ability to connect your friends to products, services or entertainment outside the wall of the network in which you are connected; and for marketers to promote their products to other people in your entire network.  There are a few other important features to Facebook Connect that are worth noting, too, because they are designed to make it easier for users to connect with sites that are outside the Facebook wall.

When Mark Zuckerberg first described Facebook Connect in July at the company’s F8 conference, he outlined four key features:

  1. Trusted Authentication: connecting your Facebook account with a partner site.  This would allow the partner site to read your profile and exchange information with it.
  2. Real Identity:  the ability to take your Facebook identity to other sites, saving users the hassle of filling out multiple registration forms.
  3. Friends Access:  staying connected with friends even outside of Facebook.  This has received the most buzz because it has marketers salivating over the idea of promoting products to the entire friend network of people who visit a partner site.
  4. Dynamic Privacy: your Facebook privacy settings follow you to partner sites.

There is a fifth one up on the Facebook site:

5. Social Distribution: the ability to easily share content by posting it to your Facebook profile.

The key here is that Facebook Connect is designed to facilitate an interchange between the user and the partner site which, if it is well designed, can offer real benefits to the user. It’ll be fascinating to see how quickly media sites and marketers can find ways to use these services to connect with customers.  Would I be willing to “friend” my favorite ecommerce sites?  Sure – if it leads to relevant recommendations and offers, as opposed to more spam.

In the coming months, you’ll be hearing a lot of controversy and discussion around privacy issues (Facebook has gotten that one wrong before, after all), as well as continued debate about the merits of a proprietary service like Facebook Connect vs. the Open ID approach.  In the meantime, start thinking about what all of this might mean to how your company can engage with its customers.