Indexing tweets isn't the only way Google is leveraging the microblogging zeitgeist of Twitter. The search engine Dec. 2 said it is letting users sign into its more than 9 million Google Friend Connect sites with their Twitter login identification.
Launched in May 2008, Google Friend Connect is a service that enables Website operators to add a widget that lets users share profile information, photographs and other personal info with the Website. The service is considered an answer to Facebook's Connect service, which lets users access their profile information outside that social network.
When a user signs into Friend Connect with their Twitter ID, their Twitter profiles will be automatically linked with the Friend Connect site and they will be able to see their Twitter profile picture and name displayed on the site.
Users can then tweet their new site membership to followers without leaving the site, tweet out discussions from the Friend Connect comments gadget and invite friends from Twitter by clicking the invite link in the Friend Connect members gadget. Google demonstrates how this works here.
Google has been accelerating its Friend Connect efforts as the year winds down. The company Nov. 4 moved to lower the barrier between Friend Connect users by adding a tool that lets users share information about themselves for serendipitous discovery, as well as a private e-mail feature to let users connect with others they may meet online through Friend Connected Websites.
The new "Interests" section in Friend Connect accounts lets Website owners add questions that are relevant to their Website. Visitors to the site can then answer those questions when they join the site or via a poll gadget. The idea is to help visitors to Friend Connect Websites learn more about each other in an unobtrusive way.
While Friend Connect has been adopted by millions of Websites since its launch, Google lacks a social network with which to support the service. At least, it doesn't have the walled garden Facebook has cultivated, where more than 350 million users worldwide plant and tend to their personal information online.
When Facebook lets other Web services connect to it, the network becomes even more valuable. For example, Facebook Dec. 2 agreed to widen the social bridge it has already built between its network and Yahoo, which is struggling to remain relevant in an era where social sites rule.
Google is socializing its Web services through a few fronts, including Friend Connect, its Google profiles service, and an experimental Google Social Search service, which leverages Google profile information to help users connect to their friends through Google.
By connecting to Twitter through Friend Connect, Google is hoping to build a similar bridge. Unfortunately, its socialization efforts have a lot of moving parts, and it is unclear whether the company will be able to successfully make them work in harmony.
ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick offers the best analysis of the Web socialization competition in this post, noting:
"Facebook and Twitter are becoming big Identity providers. Google and Yahoo have wanted to be leading Identity providers themselves but today cried Uncle with a big nod to the supremacy of the two leading social networks. At this point they have an interest in doing so, because they want you to share what you do on Yahoo and Google sites with your big link-clicking network of friends on Facebook and Twitter. Google didn't add Facebook Connect, just Twitter, because Facebook is now Google's leading challenger."