Google is currently trying out this Google Friend Connect, a new and easy for you to add social features to your website.
Websites that are not social networks may still want to be social. But the barriers to offering social applications on the site have been considerable. Google Friend Connect changes this by enabling any site to offer dozens of social gadgets created by Google and OpenSocial developers to their visitors. This means more visitors spending more time on a more engaging website -- with absolutely no programming required to make it happen.
What the site owner sees
As a site owner, Friend Connect provides you the ability to add social features to your site, without writing code. Here's how it works.
Google Friend Connect Administration site. The Friend Connect administration site presents a catalog of social gadgets provided by Google and other developers. You choose gadgets based on your site's needs. Simply copy code snippets for these gadgets and paste them as desired into your site.
Social gadgets created by Google. Google Friend Connect provides a core set of social gadgets such as member management, message board, reviews, and picture-sharing. The key gadget is the members gadget. This gadget provides core social features for your visitors:
- sign-in with their existing Google, Yahoo, AIM, or OpenID account
- invite and show activity to existing friends from social networks such as Google Talk, orkut, Plaxo, and more
- browse member profiles across social networks
- connect with new friends on your site
Social gadgets created by other developers. For the past year, the developer community has been creating hundreds of applications for OpenSocial, an open standard for social applications. Once you have added Friend Connect to your site, you can offer many of these applications to your users, simply by pasting the relevant snippet into your site.
Once you have added the members gadget, and the additional social gadgets, your visitors can start inviting their friends and more deeply engage with your site.
Reaping the rewards
Google Friend Connect integrates with contact lists for social networks like Plaxo, orkut, and Google Talk. This means users who join your site are instantly connected with friends who are already members, and can invite friends from other networks to visit. They can opt in to broadcasting their activities to friends in their social networks. A post to your message board, for example, can instantly be visible to people in multiple social networks, along with links leading to your site. These instant networks, combined with the wealth of OpenSocial gadgets, can form potent new online communities, very quickly and very easily.
And when a visitor goes to a second site with Friend Connect, the process is even simpler. The visitor simply clicks "Accept", sets privacy options for the site, and they're in. There's no need to set up their account or link in their social networks again.
Friend Connect brings friends-of-friends to your site
There are two easy ways for members of your site to bring their friends:
Invitations. Clicking on the invite link presents your visitors with all their contacts and friends from their social networks. Invitations are delivered to friends within their respective social networks.
Activity feeds. Your visitors may also opt-in to publishing activities to their social networks. A post to your message board, for example, can instantly be visible to people in multiple social networks, along with links leading to your site.
Some quick examples
Here, to spark your imagination, are just a few more simple examples. Frankly, we expect the countless developers and site owners to come up with far better ideas:
- A cooking site - Review a recipe and provide comments which clarify or improve it. Add a recipe to a social recipe box that appears across multiple cooking sites.
- A musician's site - Post pictures from your latest concert on the band's site, and communicate directly with your fans.
- An extreme sports site - Play a motor cross game, then compare your score to friends and other site members.
- An academic site - Discuss and review articles in context with colleagues and the broader community. Filter the discussion to colleagues only, or widen your view. Forge connections with new participants whose comments seem particularly insightful.
- A shopping site - Read expert reviews and tips right next to the camera you're thinking of buying, and find a friend who has already purchased the same item.
- A philanthropic site - Cultivate a community around your cause, post pictures at fund raisers, let donors connect, and involve their friends.
- Your site - ???. We hope you'll have fun experimenting with Google Friend Connect.
Everyone wins in a friend connected web:
- You, the site owner - Google Friend Connect gives you a snippet of code that, when put into your site, will equip the site with social features, including the ability to run third-party social applications. Moreover, it enables your visitors to log in with existing credentials, see who among their friends is already registered at that site. It also gives them one-click access to invite friends from their existing friends lists on other sites, such as Plaxo, or orkut.
- Your site's visitors - Visitors no longer need to create a new account or develop yet another friends list just to use the social applications on your site. We create the infrastructure that allows one login to be used across multiple sites and the ability to reuse existing friend relationships that the visitor has already established elsewhere.
- OpenSocial developers - With Google Friend Connect, any website on the web can become an OpenSocial container. Their social applications can now run on social networking sites and anywhere else on the web that uses Google Friend Connect. By placing these applications on sites where users already visit, these application will be seen and used by more users more often.
- Social networks - With Google Friend Connect, social networks thrive as hubs of activity while giving their users more opportunities to bring their friend relationships to other websites while simultaneously bringing their friends and activities from outside the social network back in -- with people having the ability to publish their activities across the web into the activity streams of their social networks.