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Google Friend Connect
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has picked up the banner of the social Web by launching an initiative to bring features commonly found on social networks to Web sites of all kinds.
Released in a limited preview, Google Friend Connect will enable Web sites to integrate social features such as blogging and feedback forms without having to write the code as well as provide access to applications developed through the OpenSocial initiative.
"Site owners have been saying for a while that they would love to provide this functionality, but, frankly, it's been too hard to add social features," Mussie Shore, a product manager at Google, wrote in a company blog post.
Last week, MySpace announced its Data Availability initiative to allow users to share their profiles with sites such as Yahoo (NASDAQ: YHOO) and eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY).
Not to be outdone, Facebook announced Facebook Connect the next day, describing it as an extension of its API. It allows members can bring their identities to third-party sites.
These announcements carry the spirit of the DataPortability Working Group, a coalition of tech evangelists dedicated to creating an interoperable social Web based on common, open standards. While the three companies each belong to the Working Group, all of the recent initiatives were developed independently.
Building on the open standards of OpenSocial, OpenID and OAuth, Google's Friend Connect is primarily about extending the social features that comprise the Web 2.0 phenomenon.
"Google Friend Connect is about helping the 'long tail' of sites become more social," David Glazer, Google's director of engineering, said in a statement. "Many sites aren't explicitly social and don't necessarily want to be social networks, but they still benefit form letting their visitors interact with each other."
For site owners, Google promises that the Friend Connect service will make their content more compelling and expand user engagement. Increased visitors spending longer amounts of time on a site would of course pay dividends in attracting advertising dollars.
Similar to MySpace's Data Availability, users who opt in will be able to publish their activities on Friend Connect sites on the social networks they belong to.
Google is launching the service with few ready-made applications, including posts and ratings, with the expectation that many more will become available through the OpenSocial developer community.
Google is now allowing site owners to register for the Friend Connect waiting list. The company said it will bring more sites into the program and add new applications as it gathers feedback from users, developers and participating site owners.
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.