Google Friend Connect Targets Facebook Connect

As a company, Google has never really been one to sit back and just watch what the other guys are doing; instead, the company is continuously venturing into new areas. Now, they’re looking to get in on the social networking action by going head-to-head with Facebook’s newly launched Connect. Similarly named, Google’s new Friend Connect makes it possible for website owners to embed review forms, comments, photo-sharing widgets, and other social tools that pull content from established communities such as Flickr.

The goal of Google Friend Connect is to make secure, distributed social networking easy. Behind the scenes, Friend Connect uses standards like OAuth and OpenID.  OAuth facilitates the secure transfer of media between sites. To eliminate yet another username and password, Friend Connect lets you use an existing account from Google, Yahoo, AOL, or OpenID. Similarly, you can use profiles and friend sources from other social networking sites that have opened up, such as Plaxo or orkut.

Google aims to make the service easy for website owners to integrate the service with his or her site by providing snippets of code that can be copied and pasted into the site. You can choose applications from the gallery of gadgets created by Google and the OpenSocial developer community. There are gadgets for photo sharing, concert listings, and games, along with others that are in the works.

There are some limitations to Google’s approach, however. For example, Google’s widget code gives website owners very little-to-no ability to include data that users share or interact with on their site. Also, there isn’t a central spot to control a person’s privacy, so you can’t control which sites can access which snippets of personal data from the various social networks.  Still, single sign-on provides a definite plus, and new social networking features such as these are definitely interesting and worth checking out.

Google first previewed Friend Connect in May. Now, in true Google fashion, Google Friend Connect is available in beta mode. Watch the video below for more information about Google Friend Connect.