Google Steps Up the Social Game with New Friend Connect Features

Hoping to better counter Facebook Connect

Facebook may be winning the social wars for now but Google is not giving up just yet. At first glance, Google may not be exactly the first that pops into your head when you think social features but that's because it’s taking a different approach than Facebook for example, a less successful one though so far. But now it's adding a new set of features to its arsenal hoping to make Google Friend Connect a much better match to Facebook Connect.

It isn't obvious yet but Google's biggest enemy is Facebook and vice versa. They seem like very different beasts, Google is all about helping users find the information they need simply and efficiently while Facebook wants to help people connect online. While their approaches may be different, they're going for the same thing, becoming an integral part of the Internet, and that means conquering as many sites as possible.

Google's Friend Connect has the upper hand when it comes to the raw number, it boasts over 8 million sites having implemented the feature, while Facebook Connect has just managed 15,000. But the numbers can be misleading; Facebook has managed to get far bigger and more important sites on its side than Google.

Although Friend Connect gets some pretty big features that could make it a more of a worthy adversary, the biggest new one is the possibility to create a personalized profile with different information depending on the site's specific.

“Visitors to your site can get to know each other better by sharing details about themselves that are relevant to the site they're on. As a site owner, you can help them do this by visiting the new "Interests" section of your Friend Connect account, where you can add site-relevant questions that people can answer when joining your website or via the poll gadget. For instance, if you have a music website, you might ask people to share their favorite bands, the last concert they attended, or where they discover new music,” Mussie Shore, Product Manager, Google Friend Connect, wrote.

Users can also engage with each other easier with the new private message system. In keeping with Google's tradition, the data can easily be exported and there is also an API to integrate the functionality in other sections of the site. Finally, website owners will be able to create customized Newsletters, which can cater to the users' specific interests.

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