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There was much excitement (and apprehension, of course) when Facebook announced its OpenGraph initiative – Facebook Connect – that allows its users to sort of integrate their likes and preferences all over the web with their Facebook profile. So if any website is eager for some extra publicity, all they have to do is hook up with Facebook to put those Like buttons (with the thumbs up icon) that we’re so used to seeing on Facebook, on their pages. When users click on them, the link to the article or photo that they’ve claimed to “like” is dragged onto the Newsfeed section of their Facebook profile for all their friends to see. When they leave a comment, it’s linked to their Facebook profile. So in a nutshell, it’s more publicity for all concerned with Facebook playing the intermediary.

But how many people know that Google was the first one to come up with this idea way back in 2008? How many have heard of Google’s Friend Connect which is pretty much the same thing as Facebook’s Connect in that:

· It allows you to use your Google account to log into websites that feature them and leave comments and see what your friends have said about products, articles or pictures.

· It is up to the website owners to determine if they want to include Friend Connect on their page or not.

· If you’re signed into your Google account, it automatically associates your first and last names and profile picture with any comment you leave on the site.

Why then has only Facebook come in for all the attention and publicity? Also, there’s a new consortium in the making with XAuth, the initiative similar to Facebook Connect that is being jointly introduced by Google, Yahoo, MySpace and a few other lesser known social networks like Meebo, Disqus and Gigya. Apparently, Meebo is the idea behind this initiative, and it has done well to rope in giants like Yahoo and Google. With XAuth, websites will prompt you to log into your preferred social network and share your likes and comments with your friends and others on your network.

While all this is good for the web at large, it doesn’t bode well for user privacy. Even if you don’t want to let people know where you’re going to and what you’re doing on the web, if you open any of the websites that allow Connect and XAuth while you’re signed into your social network on the same browser window, any comment you leave will be associated with your social network name and account. So when it comes to protecting your privacy, I guess there’s no real difference between Connect, Friend Connect, XAuth and any of the other similar initiatives that we know we will see in the days to come.


This article is contributed by Susan White, who regularly writes on the subject of High Speed Internet. She invites your questions, comments at her email address:

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Author: Andy Quayle

Andy was born in the Isle of Man and currently lives in Pittsburgh.
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