Google Launching “Friend Connect;” Plaxo to Become Social Graph Provider

Well, another “big week” is off with a bang! Google has just announced its Friend Connect project along with Plaxo [reminder/disclaimer: I head up marketing there], who is announcing they’re becoming a “social graph provider” in support of the initiative.

Dan Farber of CNET interviewed me and has a nice writeup on Google Friend Connect and how it compares with last week’s announcements from MySpace and Facebook. Here’s an excerpt:

John McCrea, vice president of marketing at Plaxo, said that Google’s Friend Connect is “flipping the model,” from walled gardens to a more open Social Web.

“Instead of widgetizing apps and bolting them on to some corporation’s proprietary social graph, why not widgetize the social graph and socially-enable any website or web page?

That’s a big, bold vision that Plaxo is 100% aligned with. As to Facebook and MySpace, it is certainly great to read the rhetoric they are now putting forth. The meme of data portability, open Social Web, and Bill of Rights for Users of the Social Web has certainly caught on!

Alas, the devil is in the details, and we haven’t seen any details (yet) from Facebook, just a Friday blog post signaling intent. Might be great, and we hope it is, but it’s not clear what the actual substance will be. With regard to MySpace, the rhetoric is over-the-top goodness, including a declaration of the end of the era of walled gardens. Alas, the details, as they currently exist, for their “Data Availability” effort fall far short of the vision many of us share for users having ownership of their data, control over who can see it, and freedom to take it with them, wherever they go across the Social Web. In the MySpace “Data Availability” model, the user can take their data for a walk anytime they want or to any place they want, but the data remains on a tether. There is no notion of copy, move, or sync. Participating sites must agree to have MySpace serve the data live in their page. That’s a half-step wrapped in a beautiful flag of openness.”

There is also a great story in the Washington Post, by Peter Whoriskey. I had a great a chat with Peter, and here’s an excerpt from his piece:

At the same time, Web businesses have begun to create standards for social site interactions on the Web — OpenId, OpenAuth, OpenSocial — that has further enabled users to move easily, and socially, from one Web site to another.

Such changes seem likely to alter the nature of the big social sites, people in the industry said, as the social aspects they are known for become accessible across the Web.

“The real question for a Facebook or a MySpace is: Is it best to think of them as a place like Studio 54 — a place where everyone wants to get in because all their friends are in — or is it more like some kind of utility?” said John McCrea, vice president of marketing for Plaxo, a company that maintains relationship information for 20 million members. “This is the evolution of the walled garden to the social Web.”

So, as the sun rises on Silicon Valley, I think it is the dawn of a new era. Very exciting.

We’re now updating our Social Web ecosystem chart to show where we think Friend Connect fits in:

Social Web Ecosystem

For a more detailed explanation, I refer you to my post on the Plaxo blog.

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3 thoughts on “Google Launching “Friend Connect;” Plaxo to Become Social Graph Provider

  1. […] The biggest surprise in Google’s announcement of Friend Connect was Facebook’s participation as a “social graph provider.” […]

  2. Chris Saad says:

    I’m not sure that Google drawing a big ring right through the center of the ecosystem is quite the best approach for everyone 🙂

  3. therealmccrea says:

    Hey, Chris. Maybe the graphic doesn’t do it the justice you’d like, but I have to day that I’m a big fan of Friend Connect. It’s a brilliant play and completely aligned with the vision of opening up the Social Web.

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