If you’re like most moderate-to-heavy Internet users, you probably have an account with Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. You may also have a number of different online email accounts. Like most people you probably do some of your banking and shopping online. You may also be making use of online applications through service such as Google Apps or Zoho Office. All of these myriad services that are meant to make managing our lives and businesses more convenient have at least one thing in common; all of them require user authentication. This is usually managed with a username and password. Management of all of these user credentials can turn into an administrative nightmare for even the casual Internet user. Just trying to remember which password is associated with an account can be a real headache. In part to combat credential confusion Google and Facebook have launched competing projects that allow you to use one identity to log in to your account on any (participating) company’s website.
Facebook’s web 2.0 identity management product is called Facebook Connect, and went live on December 4th. The launch of Facebook Connect slightly edged out the launch of Google’s competing product, Friend Connect by only a couple of hours. However, both services went live the same day, and they offer very similar benefits. Both services depend on web developers to add the web-based application to their website.
Facebook Connect offers the following advantages to companies or developers who implement Facebook’s service on their websites:
- Trusted authentication: Users can connect their Facebook account to a participating company or website using their Facebook credentials. Authentication permissions are controlled by the user.
- Real identity: Facebook users represent themselves in the social network with their real names and real identities. With Facebook connect users connect their real identities to any participating website.
- Friend Linking: Quite possibly the biggest benefit to using Facebook Connect is their enormous social component. Websites that add Facebook Connect will tap into an enormous potential audience/market through the Facebook community.
Google Friend Connect differs from Facebook Connect in that it’s not linking to any single identity or community. Google Friend Connect offers the following benefits to anyone who adds this service to their existing website:
- The websites to which Google Friend Connect may be added are not limited in any way. Google Friend Connect may be added to blogs, merchant sites, or mashups.
- Adding Google Friend Connect does not require any programming. Friend Connect can be added by downloading two files which are then added to your web server. After that you may add gadgets to your website easily by picking the one you want, and inserting the code through easy copy and paste.
- Google allows users to sign in using their credentials from an existing Google, Yahoo, or Open ID account.
What does this mean to you? Ultimately it could mean that you may only need one or two sets of credentials to do anything on the web. That depends heavily on the rate of adoption for these services. It also means that the web is going to ‘go social’ in a meaningful way. You may register with the website of a favorite restaurant using your Google Friend Connect or Facebook Connect credentials only to find that a lot of your friends have likewise signed up to receive updates from the same restaurant.