The Palm Pre is here, and while it hasn’t exactly felled the Goliath of Apple’s iPhone, it does have some features that are making iPhone users jealous. One is greater built-in social networking connectivity, including Facebook integration. The implementation of Facebook in Palm’s WebOS basically allows your Pre phone to store Facebook friend info in your address book, and then message those people directly from the phone.
Zynga wants Apple to make a similar move towards greater Facebook connectivity with the iPhone, but the game company has different motives, and very different integration goals as a result. Specifically, Zuora is looking for Apple to implement a platform-wide solution for a feature that it currently builds into each of its individual apps: Facebook Connect access.
Facebook Connect, for those who don’t know, allows users to enter their Facebook credentials to log into an app (web or otherwise) for a variety of purposes, including commenting on forums, and game score tracking and cross-platform integration. So, in Zynga’s case, for instance, it allows your Word Scramble scores on your iPhone and your Scramble scores on Facebook to be tracked across both.
Zynga clearly has a good reason, then, to want Apple to bake Facebook Connect right into the iPhone platform, since its users would then be saved the extra step of having to sign in every time they download and play a new Zynga game. It probably wouldn’t take much effort on Apple’s part to include the service, especially compared to the work required by game makers like Zynga to include it each and every time they produce a game. Including a Facebook Connect API would be much more efficient from a developer’s perspective.
While it makes lots of sense for companies in the social casual gaming sense like Zynga to push FB Connect integration, does it make sense from Apple’s perspective? If the benefits of inclusion only appeal to the relatively narrow audience of regular Zynga players who use both Facebook and iPhones, I doubt Apple will go out of its way to come up with a platform-wide solution on its side of things.
But the potential of Facebook Connect, or Google Friend Connect for that matter, could appeal to a much broader audience than just social game devs. Because FB Connect leverages the power of your social networking sites in the context of virtually any web-connected application, the possibilities that present themselves when you combine this tech with a device as prolific and app-oriented as the iPhone are endless. In theory, you could then have one cohesive identity for all web, phone, and app usage, all from your smartphone, where it makes sense, as opposed to on a computer, where that kind of access would present much more of a security concern.
Apple has to go somewhere from iPhone OS 3.0, and unlike the release of 2.0, user complaints and requests aren’t so deafening as to point the way (read the last paragraph, especially) for future feature inclusions. Facebook Connect integration is fertile ground, especially if one of Apple’s goals is to continue appealing to developers in new and interesting ways. Plus, Palm dropped the gauntlet on greater social network connectivity. Time to pick it up.