Google+ hopes it has found an identity with new app sign-in feature

The Fancy Twitter Facebook Google login page

Maybe now we’ll find out exactly how many people are really  using Google+.

On Tuesday, the company plans to announce the launch of the Google+ sign-in for apps and websites, letting developers use Google’s credentials to allow users to log in to their services, just as Facebook Connect and Twitter login have been doing for years. The move is a critical one for Google if it wants to remain competitive with its social peers, as it could allow Google+ to become one of the currencies for user data and apps.

Google is rolling out the program at first with a few partners, including The Fancy, Flixster, OpenTable, USA Today, and a few others. But it will be available for any developer who wants to build it into an app, whether that app is on Android, iOS, or desktop. The Google+ sign-in looks very much like Facebook Connect — users can choose which info to share publicly private versus public), and will see which of their Google data will be shared with the app. And obviously Google will encourage users to post their information to Google+, clearly a move to increase engagement on the company’s best attempt yet at cracking the social code

Google+ most recently announced that it had 135 million active users on the platform, although how they calculate that number is still in question, and it comes in behind Twitter’s 200 million monthly active users and Facebook’s more than one billion.

Google+ sign-in feature example

Facebook launched Facebook Connect back in 2008, which feels like eons in modern internet years, but has shown just how quickly the company has been able to put its services at the heart of a good number of apps across the web. (In fact, when the service went down recently, it showed consumers just how many sites they actually use with a Facebook login.) So it’s easy to see why Google+ wants to chip away at that lead, and why it could be an attractive option for users of Google servies and developers of apps wary about Facebook and Twitter.

Users will be able to share select data and activities from particular apps with certain people. For instance, if you wanted to share the music you were listening to with just your friends who were interested in music, you could make the data available for just a particular circle of people (the Google+ version of groups.)

However, there are always privacy and data concerns when it comes to spreading personal data connected with one company out to several more. In an interview, Seth Sternberg, the product management director for Google+, emphasized the company’s commitment to privacy and trust among users, and explained that they hoped to reflect that in the Google+ sign-in. The company is clearly hoping to draw a contrast to Facebook, which has had issues with privacy in the past.

The company also emphasized that it would never automatically share activity collected through Google+ sign-ins and then publish that data to a feed unless you specifically indicate that it should (in contrast to Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” which has seen criticism.)

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