Zimride Enabling More Trusted Carpooling with Facebook Connect

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Logan Green, Founder & CEO, and Larry Yang, Lead Developer, of Zimride on how the company is integrating with Facebook Connect. Launched in 2007, Zimride is a carpool community that combines Google Maps, the Facebook social graph, and a proprietary ride-matching algorithm that allows users to efficiently organize carpool rides – and save money in a sustainable way. Zimride’s product started around Facebook with its Carpool application, which was the winner of Facebook’s 2007 fbFund competition.

When did Zimride launch Facebook Connect integration?

In November 2008, although at that time Connect wasn’t live yet. Facebook has built a “virtual” community that mirrors the real world. Now the real world is pretty well represented, and Zimride uses this reality-based virtual world to establish trust so that users can take it offline if they wish.

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How does Connect deliver value to Zimride specifically?

It’s providing a ton of value. Being a rideshare system, Zimride is centered around trusted identities. When we were at the Facebook Developer Garage for Facebook Connect, we had high hopes for Connect acting as a driver’s license for the Internet. It’s hard to build up a trusted identity on any site, so Connect is the kind of feature we need that enables users to trust each other and use shared information to make educated choices. Before Connect, the process of authenticating users was complicated. The first thing I thought of when Connect was announced was that it could create a better user experience for authentication.

Please discuss Zimride’s implementation of Connect.

The transition to Facebook Connect was a more natural one for us, since the majority of our users came from our application, Carpool.

We worked off the Facebook Developer Wiki and sample code, and it took a few days to get the basic login function working. Generating News Feed stories took another day. It was pretty straightforward, but there’s more we want to do with Connect now. Development-wise, there are a handful of quirks. Connect is stable, but not as well-documented as PHP or MySQL, which is typical in the Net business. Years ago, this was also the case with NSAPI (Netscape Server Application Programming Interface).

Have you noticed any interesting user trends since launching Connect?

In general, we’re seeing that Feed stories are driving more traffic to our site, resulting in people being more likely to sign-up for Zimride. We’ve heard that some sites are seeing two to three times as many users, and we’re also experiencing much higher registration and engagement rates. Before, applications caused so much spam, and very few app stories made it to the News Feed. With Connect, users can indicate which stories they want to publish, ensuring that meaningful app stories are given more weight.

What is the effect of Connect on Zimride’s Carpool application? Are fewer users interacting with the app now?

No, I’d say it hasn’t had a negative effect on our application. Overall, we get the most traffic on the Carpool app because it’s been around and we’ve promoted it the longest. But Connect is now at a level where you get most of the benefits of a Facebook application, besides the recently used applications menu.

I think Facebook simply wants to provide developers with options and the best tools to integrate however they see fit. Whether developers want to build applications within Facebook or drive users to external sites depends on a variety of considerations, including user base and style of marketing, etc.

Any closing thoughts?

Connect is going to be a massively popular product for Facebook. It’s changing user engagement, and there’s a big opportunity for enterprise applications like Carpool. Zimride is the first company in the ridesharing space to integrate with Connect. The enterprise market should pay more attention to what Connect is doing.

Thank you Logan and Larry!