Google and Facebook are on a collision course and, as their products start to overlap more, there will be increased competition between them. It's going to be a while before an all out war, maybe even a few years, but, already, the signs are out there. Earlier this week, Facebook released a simplified method for implementing support for Facebook Connect, the social network's popular login standard. Just two days later, Google is firing back with a new, even simpler, way of installing Google Friend Connect.
“Normally when we misplace files here at the Googleplex, we ask our best engineers to get them back. But today, we've gotten rid of a few files on purpose, and we're happy to see them go!” Jonathan Terleski, UI designer for Google Friend Connect, wrote. “Today, we're making it even easier to get started with Google Friend Connect. We've heard from a number of you that uploading files to activate your website is not always easy. So starting today, you no longer have to worry about downloading or uploading files. Setting up a new website just involves entering your site's name and URL upon logging into www.google.com/friendconnect.”
The timing of the release is too close to be a coincidence and the move is certainly to counter the threat of Facebook Connect. Google Friend Connect was relatively easy to implement requiring just two files to be uploaded via FTP to the server hosting the web site and going through a few steps. Facebook Connect on the other hand was significantly harder and required more advance knowledge.
Two days ago though, Facebook one-upped Google, literally, with a streamline process which required the user to upload just one file and took only three steps. The idea was that with a simpler install, smaller sites could begin to adopt the standard in detriment of Google's alternative. But now, it's Google's turn to one-up Facebook, again literally, as implementing Google Friend Connect requires no files at all to be uploaded to the server and all it takes is inserting some HTML code to the site.
While it may not seem like such a major difference, it significantly lowers the bar of entry allowing the less tech-savvy users or one using hosting services, which don't allow FTP access to install the login standard. Facing that, Google has nothing to worry about with the competition from Facebook as Google Friend Connect is installed on 5 million websites compared to Facebook's 15,000. The numbers are misleading though, as Facebook has seen adoption from a great number of major sites and services whereas Google Friend Connect's 5 million installs are mostly made up of small sites and blogs like the ones hosted on the company's own Blogger.