Google follows Myspace and Facebook and unveils new Data Portability initiative, Friend Connect, that it says will benefit websites that are not social networks but want to be social. Google’s Friend Connect goes live Monday

night and is “a service that helps website owners grow traffic by enabling any site on the Web to easily provide social features for its visitors,” according to a press release.

In other words, if you want to create a social element to your website, all you have to do is add a “snippet of code” for social networking applications.

Google Friend Connect intends to spread social capability across the Web and simplify the login process for users who want to connect with new people in addition to those they already communicate with on social sites, including Facebook, hi5, orkut, and others.

"Google Friend Connect is about helping the 'long tail' of sites become more social," said David Glazer, a director of engineering at Google. "Many sites aren't explicitly social and don't necessarily want to be social networks, but they still benefit from letting their visitors interact with each other. That used to be hard. Fortunately, there's an emerging wave of social standards -- OpenID, OAuth, OpenSocial, and the data access APIs published by Facebook, Google, MySpace, and others. Google Friend Connect builds on these standards to let people easily connect with their friends, wherever they are on the web, making 'any app, any site, any friends' a reality."

On Friday, May 9, Facebook announced similar plans to embrace Data Portability with Facebook Connect; though, technical details remain unknown.

Furthermore, the leading social networking site, MySpace, has partnered with eBay, Twitter, and Yahoo to free user data in what it calls the MySpace ‘Data Availability’ initiative.

What’s the reason for these leading websites to rush into Data Portablity? In a recent post, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch speculates:

“The reason these companies are rushing to get products out the door is because whoever is a player in this space is likely to control user data over the long run. If users don't have to put profile and friend information into multiple sites, they will gravitate towards one site that they identify with, and then allow other sites to access that data. The desire to own user identities over the long run is also causing the big Internet companies, in my opinion, to rush to become OpenID issuers (but not relying parties).”

By Kathleen Clark
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