Websites Caught in Tug-o-War as Facebook and Google Launch “Connects”

This week has been quite the week for both Facebook and Google, as both have released their “Connect” products more broadly to developers and webmasters over the last couple of days.  Facebook’s Facebook Connect and Google’s Friend Connect products are engaged in a game of virtual Tug-o-War with developers and webmasters as they race to get more sites to integrate their Connect products.  Developers and website owners must choose which to go with, though the two are quite different.

Google Friend Connect – Social Context Through Gadgets

Google’s Friend Connect allows webmasters to authenticate their users from multiple social networks at once. However, while Facebook Connect links users to their Facebook profile and friends, profiles and friends are still very lightly developed in Friend Connect. Most of the early deployments (example here) are basically community lists and comment walls.

Given that Friend Connect is based on OpenSocial, developers should theoretically be able to link users of their websites to their profiles and friends on multiple social networks.  However, currently, users are only able to link to their profile to Plaxo, Orkut, or Google itself.  There is still no support for larger OpenSocial participants like MySpace and Yahoo.

However, website owners don’t have to do much to get set up with a Friend Connect gadget on their site.  In theory, once set up, any existing OpenSocial gadget could be easily imported into the Friend Connect-enabled website.  Almost no coding is needed to be set up with Google Friend Connect.

Facebook Connect – Social Context Through Integration

Facebook Connect, on the other hand, is more deeply integrated with the Facebook social graph and viral channels. (We’ve covered Facebook Connect extensively in previous coverage here, here, here, and here.)

With Facebook Connect integration, websites are able to easily publish to Facebook feeds and send Facebook invitations. Because Facebook controls the whole interaction, the user experience is in general much more smooth.

However, in order to integrate Facebook Connect, website owners must know a little bit of software development.  Facebook Connect is more than just a series of widgets; webmasters can optimize every aspect of their site for integration with the Facebook Platform if they wish. Facebook is working on a WordPress plugin to make it easier for bloggers to integrate Facebook Connect, and other plugins should be coming soon.

Conclusion

Who will win this race to wire up the social web is hard to tell.  Ideally, we’d love to see Facebook and Google play nice and interoperate with one another, but at this point that looks unlikely. We’ve only gotten started – it will be interesting to see how it all evolves.

Who do you think will win this race?  Share your own thoughts below!