Google Friend Connect Needs OpenSocial Gadgets
Google Friend Connect was opened up to the world in early December and I have finally gotten a chance to take a look at what it offers. According to the Google Friend Connect website Friend Connect has three advantages to offer website owners.
Enrich your site Choose engaging social features from a catalog of gadgets by Google and the OpenSocial developer community.
Attract more visitors Your users can easily invite friends from social networks and contact lists to visit and join your site.
No programming whatsoever Just copy and paste a few snippets of code into your site, and Friend Connect does the rest.
Enrich Your Site
The first statement on the Friend Connect website is that the gadgets will enrich your website. You will be able to add social gadgets from the Friend Connect website as well as choose from many of the OpenSocial gadgets. In a perfect world this could give you hundreds of social gadgets to choose from to add to your website. Unfortunately we do not live in a perfect world. Of the number of gadgets I have tried from the OpenSocial directory I was only able to get the Twitter one to work and that was after I did some editing to the XML code that was on the OpenSocial website. What that means is until the developers create gadgets that work with Friend Connect, the gadgets that work best are the gadgets available from Google.
The gadgets from Google include a members and sign in gadget, and two social gadgets, a wall and a rate and review gadget. This has created a number of comparisons of Friend Connect to services like MyBlogLog and BlogCatalog, because the members gadget is similar to the widgets offered by those services. Overtime the gadgets available from Friend Connect and OpenSocial will be more advanced and offer more interaction. It is possible that at some point in the future the gadgets could allow a website owner to create their own social network similar to Facebook and MySpace, except on your own domain name. At the moment we really only have a couple of choices. Do the gadgets enhance a website already is still up for debate.
I personally have added the Google Friend Connect Members gadget here, but I held off on adding the Wall and Rate and Review gadget. I would prefer to have people comment on the posts themselves. It wold be nice to see a way to tie the Google Friend Connect login in with the comment form, similar to Facebook Connect, so people could login and comment with that. That will probably be on the list of things to do in the near future.
Attract more visitors
I have only been noticing the Friend Connect members box on a few websites and blogs so far. As more websites install it there is a possibility of gaining more visitors. There needs to be more widespread acceptance of the platform and you will need to be active in other websites before you gain a significant amount of new visitors. There is a possibility that your current visitors could find more value in your website with the social gadgets installed making them visit more often and stay longer. As more social gadgets are created this could certainly be the case.
No Programming Whatsoever
This is something Google does well. The success of Adsense is partly based on how easy it is to add to a website, copy and paste the code and you are up and running. Friend Connect is similar. Copy and paste and you can easily have the gadgets provided on the Friend Connect website installed and running on your website. Compare it to Facebook Connect, that I have also looked at, and Friend Connect wins easily. No programming is only true for the default Google gadgets though. If you are thinking of adding any OpenSocial gadgets be prepared for playing with code and things not working properly.
Should You Use It?
This is probably the question most people want to know, should you use it on your website. If you like to live on the edge and try new technologies on your website I would say go for it. The Google gadgets seem to work well, but I would stay away from any of the OpenSocial gadgets unless you like pulling out your hair in frustration. I am surprised that Google launched it with such few gadgets working. Did any of the Google Friend Connect engineers try any of the OpenSocial gadgets with it? If they did they could create a list of ones that work and ones that don’t.
Another reason to look at adding Friend Connect early would be to add some social media components to your website if you don’t have any already. For example if you don’t have a commenting system on your website you could quickly add the Wall gadget and allow people to start commenting on your site with very little work. The Rate and Review gadget could also be a great addition to an ecommerce website to allow people to rate and comment on the different products you have available.
Here is a video from Google about Google Friend Connect if you want some more information.
I will be keeping the members gadget here on LGR Internet Solutions for a little while and seeing how it goes. Feel free to join, I always enjoy getting to know more about the people that visit. If you are interested in having Google Friend Connect installed on your website and don’t want to do it yourself, I would be happy to give you a hand, just drop me a note and I can arrange to have that done for you.