Late last week I added Google Friend Connect to this blog (if you followed @jburslem on Twitter you would have seen my tweet asking for people to help me test it out). I did so after Google  made the service widely available to all web site owners.

Friend Connect is part of the Open Social movement that lets you, the web site owner, add community and social features to your site with single upload (ok, it’s two uploads but there’s still no programming required).

By doing so, you’ll instantly bring a new social networking aspect to your site. But the best thing is, rather than having people build new identities from scratch, Friend Connect lets people join your site using their pre-existing identities. Effectively countering the growing sense of social networking fatigue.

In short, by enabling Friend Connect on your site, your sites visitors can easily join your community by logging in with their Google account as well as a few others — which, as of today, also includes their Twitter profile.

For example, to join the FOREM community, click on the ‘Join’ button in the right side bar (RSS subscribers, get out of your readers and come to the site to see what I’m talking about). You can use any one of your chosen identities to log in and then begin to connect with the other members of this blog’s community.

Google Friend Connect

For readers, the upside is it means you can see who’s reading a particular site and start to find other people who have similar interests to yours; clicking on their thumbnail reveals their profile and what other sites they are members of.

For publishers and site owners it is a way to build your traffic through word-of mouth recommendations, reader reviews and by adding other functionality to an otherwise static experience.

To add Friend Connect to your Blog

1. Log into your Google Account at http://www.google.com/friendconnect/home/

2. Click on the “Set Up A New Site” button.

3. Upload files – canvas.html and rpc_relay.html to the root directory of your blog. That’s it!

To add any the Gadgets (the community, Wall or Review gadgets) to your blog; just cut and paste the HTML code in your sidebar or use WordPress’ widgets (if you use WordPress).

Friend Connect is interesting project but is not totally complete yet. There’s still a few pieces of the puzzle that are missing.

I’d love for it to integrate into WordPress’ comments system more deeply (but I suspect it is only a matter of time before someone develops the proper plugin). Moreover, as the site owner, I’d love to be able to message all members of my community (respectfully, of course) — if they did this it could turn Friend Connect into a highly effective permission-based marketing platform like Facebook Pages (see Marketing Real Estate on Facebook (and Other Social Networks)).

Let me know if you add it to your blog! Drop your URL in the comments section.

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