Yesterday Google announced a private beta of FriendConnect - a standards based (OpenID, oAuth, and OpenSocial) collection of widgets that can bring social networking type functionality to any site or blog. The announcement has garnered its fair share of coverage (Mashable, Yahoo!, SearchEngineLand, Outside the Lines) so instead of simply rehashing what's already been written about FriendConnect, I'd like to look a little deeper.
With the CPC contextual text link model, Google opened up online advertising to the masses. With AdWords, even the smallest web site could bid on keywords and arbitrage traffic - effectively eliminating all barriers to entry. With FriendConnect, we will see the same effect. Any web site, no matter how small, will be able to add social networking components. Initial availability will include user registration, invitations, member galleries, message posting, and reviews, as well as OpenSocial applications.
This is again Google's long-tail approach to the web. Commodotize a feature set once controlled by a small number of vendors, and in so doing reach the vast potential of 100+ million web sites out there. With FriendConnect, Facebook and MySpace lose their prominence as social media platforms and the web itself becomes the platform. Consider how the game changes when your OpenID follows you from site to site and you know which friends are active on which sites. Combine this with the data portability movement and suddenly the web begins to resemble, well, life. Walk into any room, see whos there, recognize your pals and, wherever you go, you're the same person.