Facebook Responds To MySpace With Facebook Connect

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Facebook will announce later today Facebook Connect, which has similar functionality to MySpace Data Availability, announced just yesterday. The actual product won’t be released for at least a few weeks, so the timing on this, coming immediately after MySpace, is somewhat suspicious.

It is essentially a new version of their API for third party websites, which was first launched in August 2006.

It will allow users to “connect” their Facebook identity, friends and privacy to any website. Third party websites will be able to implement and offer more features of the Facebook Platform off of Facebook – the same features available to third party applications today on Facebook.

To make data portable, Facebook believes it’s about giving users the ability to take their identity and friends with them around the Web, while being able to trust that their information is always up to date and always protected by their privacy settings. The next iteration will be available publicly within the next several weeks.

One of their initial launch partners will be Digg.

I spoke with Ben Ling, Director Platform Product Marketing, and Ruchi Sanghai, Product Manager for Facebook Platform, this afternoon about the upcoming changes.

Facebook Connect has four primary features:

  • Trusted Authentication – Anywhere during the user’s experience that the developer would like to add social context, the user will be able to authenticate and connect their account in a trusted environment. The user will have total control of the permissions granted. This is a proprietary authentication mechanism, but is more streamlined than the existing method and will not require a redirect back to Facebook.
  • Real Identity – Users can bring their real identity information with them wherever they go on the open Web, including: basic profile information, profile picture, name, friends, photos, events, groups, and more.
  • Friends Access – Users will be able to take their friends with them wherever they go on the open Web. Developers will be able to add rich social context to their websites, and will be able to show which of their Facebook friends already have accounts on their sites.
  • Dynamic Privacy – As a user moves around the open Web, their privacy settings will follow, ensuring that users’ information and privacy rules are always up-to-date.

Facebook connect is Facebook’s first honest attempt to allow access to Facebook user data outside of Facebook itself. The company is describing it as giving third party applications access to much of the same data as Facebook applications have today. We’ll know more in a couple of weeks when it formally launches.

Update: Facebook has announced Facebook Connect on its developer blog.

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