Google's Friend Connect service now makes it easier for Website visitors to meet other people through Friend Connected destinations, while enabling site owners to make money by serving AdSense ads.
Leveraging its own OpenSocial APIs, Google launched Friend Connect in May 2008. Website operators use the service to add a widget that lets users share profile information, photographs and other personal info with the Website.
To spur greater adoption, Google Nov. 4 added a section to Friend Connect accounts 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, Google Friend Connect Product Manager Mussie Shore wrote in a blog post.
In Google's example, a music Website owner might ask people to list their favorite bands and concerts. The details visitors share for the music Website are added to their Friend Connect public profiles, which other site visitors may see. When a user discovers people who share their interests, they can send them private e-mail messages from their Friend Connect profile. See the video demo here.
This enables Website visitors to learn more about each other in the context of the music Website and connect without shoving the information down visitors' throats. Shore said the interests people share on Friend Connect sites are also made available to Website owners in charts on the new "Community data" section of site owners' accounts. These charts can be exported to other Web services.
Google Friend Connect is not a social network. It won't be confused with Facebook and its 300 million-plus social network users. But as a Website socialization tool, Friend Connect is being used by more than 9 million sites, with over 500 million unique viewers of Friend Connected Web pages each month.
But Google is looking for more adoption for its Friend Connected sites, so it needs to enrich the experience for both users and the Website owners who embed the Friend Connect widget on their sites.
To wit, Friend Connect site owners will now be able to create, send and manage newsletters loaded with the content they collect about users in the "Interests" section. Site owners can either send out newsletters to all of their subscribers, or send out custom newsletters to different subscriber groups, based on their interests.
Google has also created a new content gadget that renders links to site content that matches each visitor's specific interests.
Finally, Google has added an "AdSense" section to let site owners serve Google ads matched both to their site's content and to the interests users publicly share on the site.