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Facebook has been the winner when it comes to getting big publishers to adopt its social platform, Facebook Connect; most recently it inked a news and ad-sharing deal with HuffPo, but Facebook Connect has been serving as CNN’s go-to social platform for over a year now. That hasn’t stopped *Google*, MySpace — and *Yahoo*, to a lesser extent — from continuing to build out their own platforms in the hope of getting publisher and developer buy-in. So today, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) pushed out a big upgrade to Friend Connect, with new features that let publishers serve more targeted ads, create newsletters and even offer IMs on their sites through its social platform.
The new version of Friend Connect relies heavily on user-supplied information; site owners set up a poll that readers can fill out when they first visit (post-upgrade) that asks questions about their interests.The platform then uses that data to serve visitors better AdSense ads, as well as links to relevant content from within the site; it also makes it easier for Friend Connect users be more social overall, since info about their interests will show up in their profile no matter which site they visit.
Google is packaging the data for publishers as free analytics, and they can use it to craft custom newsletters for specific groups of visitors. As for privacy concerns, Mussie Shore, Google Connect’s project manager, told TechCrunch that people should think of any info they put into Friend Connect as public, “like Tweeting.”
Google says Friend Connect is currently in use on over nine million sites, including HuffPo and S.F. city guide SF Station, but mostly niche blogs. The company could target bigger publishers, like Facebook, but Shore told RWW that Friend Connect’s “sweet spot” is sites with “small communities” between 1,000 and 5,000 members. That’s a stark contrast to Facebook Connect, which exposes publishers to its more than 300 million users by default.