Social Data Portability allows you to bring your friends, interests and relationships where ever you go across the web.  For users, it means not having to create a new account on every site, and having immediate access to your network of friends.  For businesses, it gives you more demographic insight into your users, as well as let you leverage the popularity of existing social networks to promote activity on your site.   In this post I will discuss the strengths and differences between Facebook Connect, OpenSocial and Sign in with Twitter and show a few examples.

Facebook Connect

Simply put, Facebook Connect allows you to build a Facebook application outside of Facebook. You can integrate with Facebook’s authentication, retrieve profile information about your users, allow your users to find their friends who have “connected” with your site, as well as selectively publish actions to a user’s activity stream.   Developing a Facebook Connect application requires software development chops but gives you access to Facebook’s 200m users.  Digg and CNN both demonstrate different approaches to integration.

CNN offered a live video stream during Obama’s inaugration.  It included a Facebook Connect application which allowed users to sign in with their Facebook credentials and participate in a live global chat.

Chattin' bout Barry

The participation numbers are staggering.  According to Mashable:

1. 600,000 status updates posted through the Live Facebook feed
2. Facebook averaged 4,000 status updates per minute during the broadcast
3. 8,500 status updates were posted during the first minute of Obama’s speech
4. “Millions” of people logged into Facebook during the broadcast

These numbers would’ve never been achievable if users had to register with CNN to participate.  Recently, the Whitehouse has taken a cue and announced a similar application for it’s live video events.

Digg’s Facebook Connect implementation allows you to link your Digg and Facebook accounts.  Each story you digg, shows up on your activity stream (for all your friends to see).  For Digg, the beneifts are immediate, more people will see that I am digging stories and click back to the site.

Facebook Connect Digg

Signing Into Facebook Connect

Facebook Connect Digg2

Digg story on my Facebook activity feed

Facebook Connect is now also available for the iPhone.  This is huge and will create a whole new world of mobile social applications.


OpenSocial is similar to Facebook Connect but allows you to build applications that run in orkut, MySpace, Hi5, Friendster, Ning and Yahoo! and other 3rd party sites.

Virgin Global Row
The Virgin Global Row is a one crazy dude’s story about circling Antarctica in a boat by himself (and raising some money for charity).  OpenSocial integration allows you to login, connect with other people who have joined the site, and push your actions on the site to your various social networks.

Open social options

Open social options

Google Friend Connect
Google has also release a set of plug n play widgets based on OpenSocial called Google Friend Connect.  Currently there are about 10 widgets available including sign-in, comments, polls, reviews, events and recommendations.  This is cool because it allows anyone to quickly and easily incorporate social elements to their site (no coding required).

Sign in with Twitter

Yep, you guessed it, sign in with Twitter allows 3rd party sites to publish activity to your Twitter stream.  One example of this is Spymaster (the Twitter game which equally amazed and pissed people off).

Spymaster is a game which allows you to go on missions, raise money, buy weapons and attack other spies (Twitter users).  Success is based on how many of your followers play the game and how often you send out updates through your twitter stream.   IMO the game is pretty boring although it is undeniably attracting a huge following and a really nice example of a successful viral campaign.

Bribing you to tweet about your activities

Bribing you to tweet about your activities

Real time spymaster activity

Real time spymaster activity


There’s a big battle over who will become the defacto social OS of the web.  In the future sites/widgets/apps will be social (and location aware), the question is where your data will be sourced from.  At this point Facebook is clearly in the lead, but Google has deep pockets and Twiter is making huge strides.  As Facebook and Twitter launch payment platforms, the opportunity to monitize through social ads and microtransactions presents a huge opportunity.  Got friends?

Related posts:

  1. The Transition to Real-Time, Social Search
  2. Advertising Is Not a Sustainable Business Model for the Web (unless you are a Search Engine)
  3. The Razorfish Consumer Experience Report
  4. The Case For and Against Google's Rumoured Twitter Acquisition
  5. Ways to improve Twitter – Special Interest and Contact Groups