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Daily Debrief: Will Facebook be a game changer for social networking?Facebook comes up with a new feature it hopes will answer the myriad questions raised about identity and your data on the "open Web." On the CNET News Daily Debrief, Charles Cooper and Caroline McCarthy get into the fine print.
>> Charlie Cooper: It's taken awhile but the web is finally becoming a little bit more social. Welcome to the CNET News Daily Debrief. I'm Charlie Cooper. Facebook has unveiled a feature that allows members to connect to other websites by using their Facebook IDs. On the line now from our branch office in New York City, Caroline McCarthy. Caroline, hi there. It's called Facebook Connect. What does it do? >> Caroline McCarthy: Yes it is. Well essentially it's a way that external websites can implement Facebook's platform API so that they can -- they can have logins using Facebook accounts. So, if they already have an existing login system, people can now login with their Facebook account instead of a separate login or maybe if they don't have login capabilities at all, this is an easy way for them to implement it. >> Charlie Cooper: And Facebook announced this back in the spring. >> Caroline McCarthy: Yes. >> Charlie Cooper: There are other rivals that have something similar but they're basically lagging behind. Can you put this in context at 30 thousand foot view of why this is important? >> Caroline McCarthy: Sure. Well it's important because -- I mean the concept of what's known as data portability - of having one login for multiple, unaffiliated websites - is not new at all. There's been Open ID for years and years now. That has gotten a bit of cult following among some serious web geeks and you know Open Standards fans and that kind of thing but it has never gotten the mainstream following despite the fact that Yahoo has publicly announced support for it. But the truth is that with so many social sites, with so many nonsocial sites that may have logins available, people are getting sick of having so many user registrations. You have to remember more passwords. You have to remember more usernames like what if you use one user name for just about everything and then find out that someone on Twitter has already registered it? That kind of thing. Facebook Connects, given Facebook's really like meteoric explosive growth over the past year and half, this is really the first big initiative that I think has a shot. Granted My Space and Google both have announced projects, both of which are more deeply rooted in Open Standards but Facebook's I think stands a really, really good chance just because of Facebook's reach, the fact that it is still such a buzzed about company in the Valley and that kind of thing. >> Charlie Cooper: But of course it also needs to be very careful to do it right. Remember the whole privacy... >> Caroline McCarthy: Yeah. >> Charlie Cooper: ...kafuffle [assumed spelling] surrounding [inaudible]? >> Caroline McCarthy: Yeah exactly. I mean Facebook launched an advertising program called Beacon last year just right around this time. And it fell flat on its face because Facebook was taking purchasing information and activity information from outside websites and sharing it on their Facebook profiles. And that exact set of features is also really a big part of Facebook Connect. The problem with Beacon was the way it was handled PR wise for the most part. I mean does Facebook want to have that kind of feature? Absolutely, I think they do. But the privacy controls were all messed up. The launch was terrible. There weren't enough resources really put into having people understand what it is and understanding what they can get out of it. And so people basically just saw Facebook as spying on my activity outside. And you know they're sharing my Yelp reviews and my Overstock purchases with my friends and I don't want them there. >> Charlie Cooper: Last question, instead of keeping all the user information between cyber modes it seems that these guys are now into sharing and that's a concept that's a little bit new in Silicon Valley. They're not obviously doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. Does it reflect perestroika: new thinking? >> Caroline McCarthy: Well the truth is Facebook needs to make more money than they do already. And at least thus far advertisers have been very reluctant to accept Facebook as a legitimate destination for ads just because you know; do people really want to have their ads up against status updates and that kind of thing? I've seen some clever implementations. When I changed my Facebook status message to say I wanted pizza, I started seeing pizza delivery ads for my area which I have to say was very clever of them. They have not said how they're going to monetize Facebook Connect, but I think that that is certainly something important that they're going to want to do whether it is by sharing user analytics with participating companies or simply by having some kind of advertising tie in. Facebook does need to make money and by keeping the site completely walled, they weren't really doing that to the extent that they needed to. >> Charlie Cooper: Great stuff. Thanks Caroline. >> Caroline McCarthy: Thank you. >> Charlie Cooper: On behalf of CNET News, I'm Charlie Cooper.