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Official: Google's 'Friend Connect' brings social networking to the Long Tail

In case you didn't think Google wanted to be a big player on the Social Web -- Orkut, Google Talk and shared items in Google Reader aside -- the search giant revealed an ambitious new strategy today: 'Friend Connect' is a platform designed to help the 'long tail' of sites that don't currently offer social networking features to become more social.
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Written by Steve O'Hear on
In case you didn't think Google wanted to be a big player on the Social Web -- Orkut, Google Talk and shared items in Google Reader aside -- the search giant revealed an ambitious new strategy today: 'Friend Connect' is a platform designed to help the 'long tail' of sites that don't currently offer social networking features to become more social.

Websites that are not social networks may still want to be social -- and now they can be, easily. With Google Friend Connect (see http://www.google.com/friendconnect following this evening's Campfire One), any website owner can add a snippet of code to his or her site and get social features up and running immediately without programming -- picking and choosing from built-in functionality like user registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting, and reviews, as well as third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.

Visitors to any site using Google Friend Connect will be able to see, invite, and interact with new friends, or, using secure authorization APIs, with existing friends from social sites on the web, including Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, orkut, Plaxo, and more.

In other words, Friend Connect does two things: adds social networking features such as registration, profiles, messages etc. to any site from scratch, or takes advantage of existing social networks and other social services that offer 'data portability' APIs so that users won't have to recreate their friends lists on every site they join. But perhaps more importantly, does both without the need for site owners to write any code of their own.

Dan Farber over at CNET puts it nicely:

Unlike Facebook and MySpace, Google lacks a dominant, centralized social networking hub. Friend Connect works the edges of the Internet, applying an open and distributed approach, and bringing a social dimension to the 99 plus percent of sites that aren't socially enabled.

This is a big deal. And one that Google is very well placed to execute.

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