Twitter is preparing to launch a new set of tools that will let third party websites easily integrate Twitter features directly into their web sites and services, multiple sources have confirmed. In a nutshell, this is their response to the massively popular Facebook Connect.
Facebook Connect became generally available later in 2008, and it hasn’t looked back since. Today, Facebook says 80,000 websites have added Facebook Connect, and 60 million Facebook users engage with Facebook connect on these third party websites each month. For many sites, like our own CrunchBase, it’s the only way to create an account and log in.
Facebook Connect is attractive to a lot of smaller sites simply because it’s so easy to implement. They’ve created a number of widgets that bring Facebook features directly to third party sites, and integration is easy. You can find some of these here on TechCrunch.
Last year Twitter released simply buttons to let users on third party sites sign in to Twitter and identify themselves (we use it in our commenting system).
The new Twitter product will allow sites to authenticate users, pull data and then publish back to Twitter, we’ve heard. All of these features exist today via the Twitter API, but the slick Facebook Connect-like packaging and easy-to-use widgets don’t exist yet.
Twitter is also taking an open, standards based approach. They use OAuth, for example, for authentication and data sharing. Facebook uses proprietary protocols for Facebook Connect.
We’ll update as we hear more. But our understanding is that Twitter has been working with a handful of publishers and will likely announce the new product shortly.