Google has released a new service called Google Friend Connect that makes it possible for Web sites to easily add social networking features that don’t require visitors to join a new social network. Google Friend Connect lets any Web site operator easily add functionality to a site that lets visitors join the site, see other users of the site, and participate in social networking activities such as commenting on and rating content.
From a strict feature standpoint, there isn’t much in Google Friend Connect that seems all that new. There are many other services already available that offer these types of services. What does make this service stand out is its extreme openness and potential for near-unlimited extensibility. That’s because, rather than using proprietary technology, Google Friend Connect heavily leverages open technologies such as OpenID, OpenSocial, and OAuth.
To get the service up and running on your site, you simply need to enter the site information on the Google Friend Connect site, download two files that need to be uploaded to your site’s root directory, and choose the gadgets you want to add to the site. For the gadgets, Google Friend Connect generated code that I then needed to add to my Web site templates and pages.
Gadgets include a Members gadget that displays visitors who have joined the site. This makes it possible for visitors to sign in, join the site, and utilize other social networking gadgets. Other gadgets include a Wall gadget that lets visitors comment on and link to a site, a ratings gadget, and a couple of demonstration gadgets. There is also a code snippet provided to aid developers in creating their own custom gadgets.