It has only been a few days since Facebook and Google released their dueling press statements announcing that their identity platforms, Facebook Connect and Friend Connect, respectively, were open to the public.
I still think that Facebook will win this battle. But after I wrote my first posts, I was convinced to modify my early opinion with these qualifiers: it will win in the United States, and in the short term.
In the States, Facebook's trump card is its social network. Google doesn't have a big U.S. social network, though in other countries (India and Brazil, notably), it has a strong presence with Orkut. And only a fool would discount Google in any market for good. In 1999, did anyone expect that the company would someday make a credible mobile-phone operating system?
So how are Facebook and Google doing so far in this battle? I asked both companies to send me a list of users for their identity services. Facebook quickly sent a list, which it claims is only partial, of sites from about 30 companies adopting Facebook Connect. Standouts include CitySearch, CNN.com Forum, TechCrunch, Xobni, MoveOn, and SFGate. To be fair, not all of the sites in the Facebook list have yet integrated the platform into their log-ins.
Getting competitive information from Google was more of a challenge. The list, I can say fairly, was not forthcoming. During a tortured telephone conversation, I was given a poor excuse about why I couldn't get the full list, and then later got a list of seven representative English-speaking sites, plus two in Portuguese, and one Chinese. The top sites on the list: The Inquistr and Go2Web20. The full list is after the jump.
Advantage, so far: Facebook
As I've said previously, Google does not have technically inferior registration platform, by my estimation. But that's not its issue. For users, as least based on what I've seen so far, Facebook Connect can be more straightforward. Logging in via Google's Friend Connect is a little too different from what users may be accustomed to: You sign on in an Open Social widget and join the site as you would do with MyBlogLog. Once you join, other users can see that you're a member.
The advantage Google's widget-based approach has, though, is that it's pretty much the same on all the sites that use Friend Connect. And it gives users the option to sign in via not just a Google ID, but one from Yahoo, AOL, or an OpenID provider.
In the best implementations, logging into a site with Facebook pops up a blue-theme Facebook-branded log-in page. It can be more similar (though not identical) to logging in to any old site the old-fashioned way. And once you're in, your affiliation with the site isn't broadcast to the next hundred visitors to the site. Using Facebook Connect can be a smoother transition for users. … Read more