What ‘Facebook Connect’ Means for Corporate Websites

I’m here in SF at the F8 developer conference sponsored by Facebook. While the primary thrust of F8 Facebook announcements was for developers, I mentally translate what this means for web strategists at brands at Fortune 5000s.

One key announcement is Facebook Connect which allows for authentication on 3rd party websites. Then users can visit third party sites, login with their Facebook ID, connect with their friends and update their Facebook newspage –all without visiting Facebook.com

[Facebook Connect will allow corporate websites to allow users to authenticate, interact, and share with their Facebook network –all without leaving the corporate website]

Essentially, the Facebook experience extends further into the web beyond their walled garden.

Facebook Connect allows users to authenticate using their Facebook ID
Similair to OpenId (which coincidently was adopted by competitor MySpace) third party developers can allow website visitors to login to their website using their Facebook ID. This “Passport” system (much like what Microsoft tried to do) will let members leave comments on third party sites as well as identify their friends on these sites.

Facebook Connect Will Allow third party sites to update Facebook Newspage
Facebook Connect allows applications, devices, websites to allow third party sites to embed a small piece of code on your site. Then, as users come to your site, (assuming they are Facebook users) could login to Facebook from your site and choose to share activities that would be shared on their newsfeed on Facebook.

Example via Techcrunch: “Mike Philips from Citysearch is taking the stage. He says they are launching a new site, where sharing information is a big piece. They are integrating with Facebook Connect. When a user looks for a hotel, restaurant, etc., Citysearch already has lots of reviews and data, but not a way to link up reviews from friends.”

[Boring, static corporate websites can now become social]

Recommendations for Brands
Interestingly, I talked to some Facebook employees, and they weren’t even looking as far as I was, (which means I’m doing my job well) so this prediction is something to still watch.

Brands should watch how this impacts the few launch partners first, let them sort out the bugs, and put this on the roadmap. Brands that have websites that have social actions (such as buying a product, rating, ranking, or leaving comments) should keep this in mind, as they can now extend the actions to Facebook streams.

Brands that are already trying to reach the Facebook audience (white collar workers and college students) should plan on experimenting with Facebook Connect as it can bring additional social functionality to corporate websites. First, start with use behavior: Use this interactive chart, the behavior is a cross between “Joining” (a social network) and “critic” (commenting, voting, rating) content. In this case, joining is a prerequisite for being a critic, so the actual participation level will be less.

Your logins could become less relevant if Facebook adoption continues to take off in particular markets, for example, brands that are already trying to reach this segment should be ready to adopt Facebook Connect. I ran this Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO Living Social, who agreed this is a big change.

Update: After talking to others, like Dave McClure, it quickly was realized that this is just one more in a trend: OpenID now on MySpace, Google Friend Connect, LinkedIn’s ties with Businessweek and NYT are all examples of our social graphs (relationships) leaving the social network and spreading to third party sites.

Also, White label social network vendors (community platforms) should be thinking about how to integrate all of the above.

56 Replies to “What ‘Facebook Connect’ Means for Corporate Websites”

  1. I think you have it exactly right; removing the extra step of registration (looking up logins, etc.) will make it that much easier for brands to spread among these audiences. Several of my clients have been looking for ways to help their FB presence spread (note to @samlawrence that I did not say “virally”) — and to use FB to complement their social functionality and bring them to their site.

    Smart. Will look forward to the implementation.

  2. I’m actually writing about this now too for something going out tomorrow. I agree with the wait and see approach. It’s going to be a MAJOR change for online publishers, and I don’t think that’s getting nearly enough attention. There hasn’t been much of a focus on how publishers will now have different ways of communicating with their users. So much is being said about what publishers gain without noting what’s lost.

  3. “I talked to some Facebook employees, and they weren™t even looking as far as I was”..not very business oriented. But actually not a bad sign that they are thinking community member first, I guess.

    But thanks for sharing your insight and your recommendations.



  4. Does this mean, now, that when you, Jeremiah, purchase a product at a participating Facebook Connect website, that when I log into that web site using my Facebook ID, that I will get a popup that says, “Hey Dennis, did you know that your friend Jeremiah — or at least someone using Jeremiah’s Facebook ID — just bought a Widget here? Wouldn’t you like to buy one too?”

  5. Jeremiah,

    Love the concept you projected here. Plan to consider it as an idea to add to our platform.

    But could you take a devil’s advocate position and see if you also see any risks and challenges of what you suggested as well?

    You are close to the event and people and hope you could bring more dimensions to this very interesting idea.

    C.H. Low, CEO, http://www.orbius.com

  6. Dennis

    that’s one possibiltiy, but it sounds like most will be using it in this use case:

    Login to Facebook on a third party site. Do some actions on that third party site (buy something, favorite something, vote for something)

    Then, it will ask you “do you want to share this with your FB network?” If so, should it be a big, small, or text update?

    Users will have the choice before first submitting it to your network.

  7. I see some gains in insta-logging, and I get the publish “this tidbit” back to my facebook site.

    But I wonder if we’re making assumptions that users really want to do that.

    It seems like FB is turning into this big shoe box, here is all that I am, easily served up on a platter. FriendFeed does this but in a out of sight out of mind way just following my interactions with services on the web, like this is soap box, check it.

    With FC the -ask permission post to FB part of the experience may get annoying over time.

    I think your brand angle is correct and we’ll see some brands play in this space of providing something interesting fun and then oh lookie you can just take this snippet of our brand goodness and put it on your FB, now was that really all that bad.

    I think FB also runs the risk of getting too close to the consumer like a friend that will not leave the room, always there, willing to connect you, you connected with people just fine before the internet existed but now you really need help doing that.

    Maybe users like the process of doing it themselves, controlling that flow. Perhaps FC is for more hyper connected users. It could freak out the already freaked out segment of folks who can’t understand the current social web.

  8. Dan

    Bingo, and a sure way to predict how many will do this is by looking at their social technographics (social behaviors using social media)

    Use this interactive chart, the behavior is a cross between “Joining” (a social network) and “critic” (commenting, voting, rating) content

    In this case, joining is a prerequisite for being a critic, so the actual participation level will be less.


  9. Jeremiah,

    I agree with Dan, but I’ll go from the businesses perspective. For some businesses, having a close alignment between social networking and business networking could be beneficial. But many businesses want people at working focusing on work. Opening the door to allowing social distractions and the possibility of untrackable data loss would be a great concern.

    How often do companies have an internal set of blogs and then an external blog(s). For companies wanting to go down this path, isn’t it possible that they would rather have an “Internal FB”, which is more business focused and not link to whatever one sets up externally?


  10. yep, on target.

    people really only starting to grok it, but the combination of FB Connect & FB Payments (once it ships) will be quite powerful for off-platform services.

    my rants from march probably aren’t as sane or sober as your post above, but fwiw here was my take:

    Web 3.0 isn’t the Semantic Web, it’s Hailstorm 2.0

    (see last section on ‘The Always-Logged-In Web: No More Passwords, The Targeted Friend List, & Viral E-Commerce’)

  11. A possible scenario is that, as Facebook Connect starts to take off, Facebook itself as a destination for online networking — as we now understand it — will become less important. Facebook instead will evolve into more of a web-wide platform for socially-enabled online commerce. Would this therefore threaten Google? Or would it be complementary?

  12. Does FB Connect give FB a step closer to their $15B valuation? I can see it having some potential to deliver more eyeballs to view and share more sponsored content, but it feels like a continued reliance on the advertising model.

    Did the event give any view into monetization plans?

  13. facebook is a feature of the web
    a function
    its never going to be a money maker
    developers are pawns

  14. This assumes we want a socially-enabled online commerce. I feel that’s just going to be noise in the signal. Its funny how many tools of the web offer to reduce noise, consolidate it, etc, and FB connect is basically saying you can control your own noise, but its also giving you the ability to really ramp up your noise like a twittering fool with multiple accounts and mass mayhem tweeting. Will that cause unfriending, blocking or something like “I really like Sally she’s nice, can you just block her adverts?”

  15. zactly Dennis, Facebook is not so much a destination site.

    Paul, agreed, for the most part, cept many developers are monetized or are getting funded. It makes sense for developers to fish where the fish are, on top of their large community.

    Cameron, this potentially bould be what BEACON was supposed to be.

  16. This post would have been much better if it was titled,

    “What Facebook Connect Means for Your Mom(and mine)”

    FB justifying its 15b valuation?

  17. It sounds like they’re taking a big step toward the social layer. It’s going to be all about sharing across environments over the next few quarters. thanks for your insight.

  18. All in all good thoughts with a few slight errors that need to be corrected.

    First of all Facebook is not opening up their walled garden, they are just extending the fence. This is really important to understand as Facebook remains to have you locked into Facebook with your social graph.

    Second bit, comparing OpenID and Facebook ID. Open ID is at least an open standard and while many of the current implementations are one sided (allowing your to use your id as login on other sites but not the other way around) it is a first step in creating a system of interacting sites based on one standard.

    The thing is that a corporate web site cannot put Facebook Connect on there to allow me to find all my friends … because many of my friends are not on facebook. It’s like saying “you can mail all yahoo! users from my page now, but forget about msn, gmail, aol, …”

    So yes, this is very cool, but it is a dangerous direction. You are touching it upon with in your update. Checke out the open web foundation in relation to that: http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/07/24/open-web-foundation-officially-launches/

  19. I am interested to know how the email address is managed of the user. How does the partner site get to use the email address of the user that has logged into their site via FB connect?

    I understand privacy law would restrict FB from directly passing the email address across to the partner, but if the partner site can contact the user via the Facebook Platform API to send email, then do they also unsubscribe via Facebook also? Does this mean that any correspondence needs to be branded as both Facebook and the partner site?

    Anyone have any feedback on the email contact side of things?

  20. Great post…quick follow-up question to anyone that knows:

    For partner sites, what information can we pull from in from Facebook? For instance, can I pull Education information from FB into my database?


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  22. I think it's great to see how Facebook can connect to our business as well as our personal lives in such productive and helpful ways. Now if we can just keep the fences up and the gates closed so every part of our personal lives (ie. our kids and families) are not exposed and put at risk to all the crazies out there.

  23. I think it's great to see how Facebook can connect to our business as well as our personal lives in such productive and helpful ways. Now if we can just keep the fences up and the gates closed so every part of our personal lives (ie. our kids and families) are not exposed and put at risk to all the crazies out there.

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