Facebook Connect Expands, Aims To Shrink The Web

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Facebook Connect is similar to OpenID -- another single sign on resource -- only in the sense that users will be able to log onto other sites connected with the service without having to reenter personal information multiple times.

The formal partners were announced earlier in the year and nothing much has really changed. Facebook users will be able to use Connect to log into and share content from sites like CBS, Hulu, The San Francisco Chronicle and a few others.

The idea behind Facebook Connect is pretty straightforward. When logged into Hulu, for example, Facebook members will be able to let their friends know that they're watching a particularly funny video. Or, for a site like Digg, friends can see which articles users have Dugg.

Again, the idea is to expand the reach of Facebook by making the site more social across a larger swath of the Web.

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According to a feature in the New York Times, one of the driving factors behind Facebook Connect is to create and drive an ongoing revenue stream for the social network.

The problem to this point, however, is that Facebook users are relatively reluctant to click on the ads -- and of the ones who do, an even smaller percentage of people are likely to make a purchase. It's a familiar refrain amongst the social networking talking heads: how do you monetize social media?

Speaking at an industry conference last month and cited by the New York Times, Ted McConnell, a general manager at Procter & Gamble, may have put it best: "What in heaven's name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?

McConnell is right and Facebook recognizes it. So Facebook Connect is targeted to get a group of users to navigate over to a site that sparks their interest. If, for example, a music downloading site is part of Facebook Connect and users are clicking over to listen to and download music, chances are a lot better that the ads on the music site will create revenue. That revenue money can then be shared or split between Facebook and its Facebook Connect partner.

Once those partner sites start to see money trickling in by taking advantage of the some 120 million Facebook members the Connect idea will start to take off and just like that social media starts to make sense for advertisers who are looking to target the Facebook demographic.

At least, that's the idea -- whether or not it works remains to be seen.

As for Facebook's strategy, it seems to be a good one. By selling Facebook Connect to users as a way to reduce the clutter of multiple social networks and consolidate into a single "go to" spot for all information friends are posting, watching and reading, the Web gets a little bit smaller. While that may seem trivial, there are a lot of Web personalities -- not to mention aggregation sites, like FriendFeed -- that have tried it before without widespread adoption.