We have the browser wars, the search engine wars and the social network wars -- so where will the next digital battle take place? It's among services that offer third-party logins for publishers, which sounds as unsexy as it gets, except the stakes are so high that everyone with a Web presence needs to take notice.
Google, Facebook and MySpace have all developed platforms where publishers can let visitors log in with an existing account from another service, rather than requiring visitors to register for that specific site. Publishers lose a bit of control; they won't have access to emails and the full details they can collect when requiring visitors to register directly with them. What they gain instead is the potential for much richer and deeper engagement from a large population of visitors that might not have registered at all. They also gain opportunities to attract new visitors.
How should publishers choose among the current connect platforms -- Google Friend Connect, Facebook Connect and MySpaceID? The services are evolving quickly but here are three rules of thumb to consider:
- If the goal is to get the widest reach of new registered users engaging more with the site, use Google Friend Connect. Based on publishers' experiences to date, this has also been the easiest to set up. Google also allows Friend Connect users to meet like-minded people on those sites.
- If the publisher's primary goal is to attract new visitors, they should select Facebook Connect, which allows users to share actions on a publisher's site back on Facebook. This means their Facebook friends will easily be able to click back to the publisher. When installing Facebook Connect, publishers should maximize the opportunities for people to send updates back to Facebook, by integrating polls, reviews, high scores in a game or other forms of interactivity. The publisher will also want to ensure that there is enough overlap between its audience and Facebook's.
- If there's an overwhelming MySpace audience overlap, then MySpaceID makes sense. Even if a publisher's audience overlap with MySpace and Facebook are equal, Facebook still has two advantages: it's been tested for months by major publishers and links on Facebook have a much higher likelihood of getting viral traction.
There are other options. OpenID has been a sleeping standard for years. While embraced by publishers such as Yahoo and CNN, it has lacked a brand of its own and requires a bit of a learning curve. Then there are emerging contenders like Gigya Socialize, which seeks to serve as an umbrella service across all of these login platforms.
It's not a clear-cut answer and the value proposition for all of these services may change dramatically six months from now. So while it's too soon to know which of these connect platforms will gain traction, it's certainly not too soon for publishers and marketers to see which of these platforms resonate best with their sites visitors.
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David Berkowitz is director of emerging media for 360i. He has written dozens of articles covering media, marketing and technology for several trade publications over the past decade. Mr. Berkowitz has spoken at Digital Hollywood, Ad:Tech, SMX, OMMA and dozens of industry events, and he blogs extensively, contributing to MarketingVox, nowEurope, AdTechBlog and others. He is frequently quoted online and in print on technology, advertising and media trends.