Google hasn’t had as much success building a vibrant social network as Facebook, but the search giant now seems far less interested in concentrating all social activity inside Google+ and much more keen on using it as social connective tissue throughout its network of products and services. Google+ Sign-In, a service revealed Tuesday, lets third-party developers build Google+ authentication, sharing and interaction into their services. And it makes perfect sense.
If Google+ users view the service primarily as an identity they carry through, say, Gmail, YouTube and Google Apps, then the ability to use it as a key in an ever-growing list of websites, clients, and apps may be appealing. (Last year, Google+ Lead Vic Gundotra described Google+ as Google 2.0.) Google+ Sign-In, however, is more than simply authentication.
The new global authentication scheme, which Google is rolling out Tuesday, lifts the Google+ identity of some 135 million active users from social network credentials to portable identities they can use to sign in to websites and services, Android apps and even iOS apps. And more than that, similar to Facebook Connect, it automatically shares activities on those third-party services with your Google+ community.
Google describes it as a new way for developers to connect the larger Google experience with their applications. If developers choose to enable Google+ Sign-In, their products can access virtually anything in the Google API. At a basic level, this includes full name, profile picture, Google+ ID, age range, language, people in their Circles, other public information and any other information specifically requested by the app. This can be combined with other Google APIs to access addition Google services (Gmail, Calendar, etc.) via a separate consent dialogue box.
Like Facebook Connect, this sign-in-anywhere scenario turns the exchange of information into a two-lane highway: with your Google+ information coming into the app, and activity flowing out of the app and potentially onto your Google+ social network.
For end users, the sharing will be somewhat familiar. Within apps, they’ll be able to set controls to share something specific with an individual or to make a broader set of your in-app discoveries visible to, say, a larger Circle in Google+. Google executives explain it’s all under users’ control.
One of the hallmarks of Google+ Sign-In will be the ability to ensure that those you share with actually get the message. Google+ users told Google, “We want to share to friends and to the right friends and to make sure they got it and not spam friends.” Not spamming is controlled via choosing who you share to (and when). Making sure they got it means a little red alert across all Google products (that they’re signed in to).
With your Google+ identity and activities now on the move, some may worry about privacy and security. Google insists there’s no cause for concern. On the privacy side, “We’re really careful on the consent dialogue. We gave users a level of control that I don’t think has been seen in [the] market yet,” said Seth Sternberg, Google+ Product Management Director. “We will not change what we do with your data without asking the user,” added Google spokesperson Ryan Brack.
Your protection, Google execs explain, begins with the two-step authentication that will still exist when you sign in to Google+ on other websites and apps. Your control for who can see your app activity will be inside the app. By contrast, Facebook Connect doesn’t always make it obvious what information you’ll be sharing to whom. Case in point: Social Cam by default shared your viewing habits with your Facebook friends.
Google+ Sign-In will offer you the option of keeping your activity to just you or to the Circles of your choice. If you choose to edit your sharing information, Google+ Sign-In takes you to an activity page where you can show or hide every single activity.
Along with Sign-In, Google’s introducing a new kind of share: Interactive Post. Essentially, when you share something through an app or website on Google+, your friends might also see, for example, “Review,” “Buy” or “Listen” buttons. Friends clicking these buttons either end up on the website or in the app where you took the sharing action or a place where they can download the app that will let them take those actions. Google calls these buttons new forms of interactions, but they sound quite a bit like commerce hooks.
A New Layer
The transition of Google+ from pure destination to a portable identity is perfectly natural said David Glazer, Google+ Engineering Director. “I think that’s right in concept. The idea of Google+, right from the beginning, was to provide a social layer across everything Google did,” he said. Now, of course, it’s moving more aggressively into Facebook territory, where, just like your Facebook profile, your Google+ identity is potentially a layer over everything you do.
Not surprisingly, Android integration will, at the outset, be the most robust. When you sign into the recently updated Fitbit web client with Google+ Sign-In, for example, the site will recognize if you have an Android device and ask you if you want to automatically download the companion Fitbit Android app. If you say yes, the app is automatically added to your device, without any further interaction from you.
On the web client side, signing in with Google+ will auto-populate the account with all of your Google+ Sign-In information.
The popular health and activity monitoring platform is just one of nearly a dozen Sign-In launch partners Google’s announcing today (Banjo, Fancy, Flixster, Shazam and OpenTable are among them). Fitbit already has Facebook Connect sign-in on its apps (including iOS), but nothing for Twitter thus far. So why did they choose to go with Google+?
“It’s one of the top three networks,” Fitbit Director of Engineering Peter Molettiere told Mashable. “We don’t like to dictate to users which platform they should be using. We support Facebook, though we do not support federated sign-in with Twitter.”
Molettiere said the automatic download mechanism is unusual and “contributes to that magical experience.”
Of course, that magical experience is somewhat short lived since the Android Fitbit app you do get through Google+ Sign-In is exactly the same one you’d get if you downloaded it via Google Play on your own.
Fitbit has been beta testing the new platform internally with a Google-approved set of accounts and goes live with an updated web client today. Molettiere, though, may not get to experience the magic. When we asked him what kind of phone he has he told us an iPhone.
Web, Android and iOS developers can start accessing the necessary development tools today.
Are you ready to spread your Google+ identity and activities around? Let us know in the comments what you think of Google’s new plan.
Images courtesy of Google
Source: PR Syndication