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Google joins assault on social network barriers

13 мая 2008

Google joined the race to break down the walls around the biggest online social networking sites on Monday. The move comes days after MySpace and Facebook, the two biggest online social networks, made similar announcements.

Though the initiatives differ in detail, they all aim to let users of social networks connect automatically and interact with friends far and wide on the internet rather than on the particular sites where they first registered.

Among other things, that could remove the need to join multiple networks, bringing relief to people who are “sick and tired of inviting ... friends to 50 different sites”, said David Glazer, a Google engineering director.

The change in direction represents a potentially risky calculation by the social networking companies, as they relax the “walled garden” approach that has characterised the business in its first incarnation. Rather than counting on people coming to their sites to interact, they are giving their users the power to “plug” their social network into other sites.

The relaxation could reduce traffic to the networking companies’ own sites, though they stand to gain by cementing their relationships with users, who would look to them as the “hub” consolidating all of their social data on the web.

That makes it the reverse of the strategy that helped bring Facebook to prominence a year ago, when it let other websites bring their applications to the Facebook site as “widgets” to take advantage of all the internet users who were congregating there. Through Facebook Connect, announced at the end of last week, the social networking company now says it will let its users take their networks elsewhere, though it has so far given fewer details of its plans than Google or MySpace.

Mr Glazer called the movement the “next step in the growth of the social web” as social information comes to influence a wide range of online activity. “We’re seeing social capabilities being baked into the web – it is increasingly not tied to any particular website,” he said.

Google’s initiative, known as Google Friend Connect, involves software tools that any website can use to add networking capabilities. Visitors to sites that build in this feature will be able to link data automatically from their social networking profiles to applications on the sites. That would make it possible to see what activities other members of a person’s network have undertaken on an unrelated site, or to interact with them.

Mr Glazer said: “99 per cent of the sites out there aren’t social networks and don’t make sense as social networks.” By adding social features like this they stood to increase engagement with their audiences.

Источник: Financial Times

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