Not to be outdone by MySpace's "Data Availability" initiative, Facebook announced on Friday its own data portability strategy dubbed "Facebook Connect".
Described as "the next iteration of Facebook Platform" the new feature will allow users to "connect" their Facebook identity, friends and privacy to participating sites -- implying that Facebook will expand its current public APIs to enable more of Facebook's data to have a life outside of Facebook. It's not clear, however, if participating sites will need to have formal agreements with Facebook or simply comply with Connect's terms of service.
More details on Facebook Connect:
Users will be able to connect their Facebook account with any partner website using a trusted authentication method. Whether at login, or anywhere else a developer would like to add social context, the user will be able to authenticate and connect their account in a trusted environment. The user will have total control of the permissions granted.
Facebook users represent themselves with their real names and real identities. With Facebook Connect, users can bring their real identity information with them wherever they go on the Web, including: basic profile information, profile picture, name, friends, photos, events, groups, and more.
Users count on Facebook to stay connected to their friends and family. With Facebook Connect, users can take their friends with them wherever they go on the Web. Developers will be able to add rich social context to their websites. Developers will even be able to dynamically show which of their Facebook friends already have accounts on their sites.
As a user moves around the open Web, their privacy settings will follow, ensuring that users' information and privacy rules are always up-to-date. For example, if a user changes their profile picture, or removes a friend connection, this will be automatically updated in the external website.
As with MySpace "Data Availability", it seems that Facebook wants to be the central conduit for social networking features across the Web. Facebook then becomes a kind of social 'control panel' used to make changes to various social networking settings such as profile information, relationships (friend lists) and privacy, which are then synced up with participating sites. It really is the Web as platform, where Facebook becomes a central component of the OS.
Meanwhile, Mike Arrington over at TechCrunch reports that Google may be about to reveal its own response, rather confusingly called "Friend Connect".
Like Data Availability and Facebook Connect, Google’s Friend Connect will be a way to securely send personal profile data, including friend lists, presence/status information, etc., to third party applications, say our sources. The primary benefit of these services is to allow users to maintain a single friends list and to coordinate social activities across different sites that perform different services.
However, Arrington warns that Google's "Friend Connect" won't be as feature rich as MySpace or Facebook's competing visions.
If what we hear is correct, Google’s offering may not be as attractive as MySpace’s and Facebook’s. Google may be keeping a tighter reign on data, requiring third parties to show it directly from Google’s servers in an iframe. By contract, MySpace and Facebook are sending data via an API and trusting third parties not to abuse it (with strict terms of service in case they violate that trust). That flexibility also allows those third parties to do more with the data, including combining it with their own data before displaying it.
More details and analysis to follow.