Why Facebook Connect Matters & Why It Will Win


Facebook kicked off their second annual developer conference in San Francisco this afternoon with a keynote by founder & CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The overproduced keynote, with too many words repeatedly incessantly, seemed like a lullaby sung by a nanny in a language alien to yours. There were some who compared Mark with Steve Jobs after last year’s presentation. Now, having watched the two weave their respective spells, I would say the comparison would be as exaggerated as equating the thespian abilities of Colin Ferrell with those of George Clooney.

These non-important and highly personal observations aside, I came away fairly impressed with what Mark & Company are doing with their Facebook Connect (FC) system. (The program launched today with 24 partners, and a press release. It will go into beta soon.) As a caveat, there is very little information available on how FC is going to work “technically.” Still, It seems Facebook has a much better chance of succeeding where Microsoft and othesr have failed. FC’s integration into services of partners like Digg and Six Apart makes it very clear that it is more than just a simple web ID system play.

In addition to offering a simple authentication method, FC allows granular social interactions to be embedded in non-Facebook services. If Facebook can work with its partners to build interesting use-case scenarios that go beyond simple sign-on, it is quite feasible that Facebook can out-execute Google, MySpace and everyone else with its ID ambitions.

Why? Because this is their one chance of building a monetization engine. The company makes no bones about trying to build a platform that allows it to offer branded advertising in a manner akin to Google’s Adsense. A simpler person (like yours truly) would call this a platform that serves ads for all occasions, reasons and seasons.

As I pointed out yesterday, Facebook Connect is the second iteration of the Beacon system and seems to be much less draconian and evil than the first version. Of course, it has been improved enough to become the underpinning of a highly effective advertising platform.

When you use Facebook Connect on a web service outside of Facebook, say Digg or Xobni, you are transmitting back “a little something about you” to the proverbial Facebook brain. I will use the example of the service built by Six Apart to illustrate my point.

If you visit a blog that is published using Six Apart’s Movable Type publishing system, you can leave a comment by using Facebook Connect for authentication of your ID. Your comment on a blog post can also be published to your Facebook account. This is fairly standard ID stuff.

However, it is the act of leaving a comment that is more important. You are essentially telling Facebook’s proverbial brain what topics — blogs or specific posts — with which you like to engage. In other words, you just told the system a little bit about yourself. Now imagine such information coming from dozens of Facebook Connect partners.

Each service adds a few more data points about you inside the Facebook brain, which is quite aware of your activities inside the Facebook ecosystem. The brain can then crunch all that information and build a fairly accurate image of who you are, what you like and what might interest you. With all that information at its disposal, Facebook can build a fairly large cash register.

In comparison with the Beacon system, this is almost benign. Beacon drew scorn & spit and my personal disdain, mostly because it sought to make commercial gains by compromising people’s privacy without giving them any choice. In comparison, the new system asks you to make a choice. By signing in to partner sites using the Facebook identity system, you are essentially saying yes and plugging into the Facebook brain. (I hope that Facebook and its partners learned from the mistakes of the past and make it very clear to their users how the system is going to work, and how their privacy/personal information will be used.)

At the post-keynote press confab (I skipped since I had to go see my doctor), when asked how the company will make money, Mark apparently said the company isn’t currently focused on monetization and will be looking to extend their platform’s reach. He doesn’t have to – if Facebook Connect works, the money will follow.



Om, of course relevance of Facebook Ads increases response. That comment was a little mis placed.

Seems to me that Facebook is trying to embed itself into content. This is a wise move given that Facebook is becoming the new email to people. Although email advertising is big business (arguably not relative to other industries though), being able to monetise content offers far greater scale and is more where the company’s vision seems to be heading.

Sami Khan

Let’s wait and see who else adopts it. I think it is stupid and fool hardy for many of these sites to allow themselves to be leveraged to this extent by facebook. Because just like M$, facebook can steal their clients in the long run. Allow your identity to be tied to facebook as the primary provider is a big mistake, because it’s equivalent to what M$ was attempting to do with their proprietary ID scheme a few years back before everyone pretty much said no to them. So the idea is sound, but only for facebook. Companies playing along with it are fools, and in the long run will pay for their foolishness — but they are probably hoping to cash out before then.



While your initial post is insightful, I disagree with your notion that FC will primarily make money by better ad targeting through more profile information. I have done significant advertising as an advertiser, and FB already has enough detailed information to reach almost any kind of audience profile that you are looking for as an advertiser.

The big problem is that online, as in other mediums, users continue to ignore ads. This is especially true in social networks given the high PV / Visit ratio.

Google got around this problem by showing relevant ads WHEN and WHERE people were looking for a particular something. This was a great and natural extension of Google’s main product: search. If you were searching for X, or on a site about X, Google would show you ads related to X.

Search is not Facebook’s forte. The social graph is. So how can Facebook use what it has to get people to care about ads?

The answer is almost wickedly simple: through friends and friends-of-friends. I will care about an ad for X if I’m interested in X at THAT time (Google search) or in that location (Google Adsense), or if my friends and trusted connections care about it (Facebook). Nobody else on the internet can tell me what my friends are interested in, what new products they are trying, or new services they are using. Facebook Connect will be able to do that.

FC will make money by getting me to care about the “ads” and charging advertisers premium rates for higher CTRs and better converting traffic. This works because of the social graph, NOT because FB has 5 new pieces of information about my profile.

Think about the following example: I have 649 friends on Facebook. If I buy a new video game for my Xbox360, and that information shows up in the feed for my 649 friends, the chances for them to click-through and buy the same game are much higher than if you took the same ad and showed it to 649 random users on the Internet. The CTR these days on SNS are abysmal – 0.01 – 0.1% on average. If even 1 of my 649 friends clicks on the video game link to learn more, FB has just outperformed the entire SNS ad sector by 3x – 10x. THAT is game-changing.


knowing a lot about someone (by piecing through bits and pieces) doesnt change the MODE the person is in when they interact with FB or its partner sites. Mode or INTENTION is key – when i go to FB, i am going there in a very different (and usually trivial) mode – my INTENTION is just to connect with some friends (which anyways has become a chore because of the tons of feed data that one has to sift through before). Not to Search or SEE ADS.

So yeah, FB can increase its Ad display rate and increase revenue through impressions. But it will not translate into increased CTR.

And Ads displayed when no INTENTION exists, are just spam.

Comments are closed.