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The emergence of the social web has given rise to a number of startups, and provided eco-systems that now support thousands of applications. With the high quantities of existing users that are active within these networks, and the ongoing technical problem of user management, it’s little surprise that a number of solutions have cropped up to offer an easier way for developers to integrate their users with the social web, and indeed, provide a much quicker, and seamless sign up process. Social sign-on also makes it easier for customers to share information directly to their social network of choice, increasing brand engagement and resulting in an increase in traffic.
I’ve decided to take a closer look at the current range of solutions out there on the web today, for making your application, or its sign-up process integrated more closely with social media.
Pricing: Number of plans (including free option) available
JanRain offer a number of software solutions for enhancing the social user experience, but one of their core offerings (JanRain Engage – formerly known as RPX), allows businesses to increase online registration rates, with a product that integrates existing social profiles around the web and an API that allows you to publish back to them. It heavily relies on Open ID technology for its integratation with others, but goes above an beyond.
For example, an online retailer could allow users to signup to begin their shopping experience using a Facebook login, and when an action such as a sale occurs on the website, publish directly back to their stream – all through the Janrain API.
Existing plugins are already created for a number of platforms (including WordPress, Drupal and Joomla) – which makes integrations that bit easier if you happen to be using those and they also offer analytics on the number of signups with particular platforms, allowing you to further streamline your signup process.
This site includes a good explanation of how it all works, including some VB.NET code for the implementation, and JanRain themselves offer some open source libraries if you plan on going it alone with Open ID integration, being cited by Google as one of the companies pushing OpenID development forward.
Pricing: Free, although commercial options available on request.
Gigya’s platform aggregates and optimizes social APIs including Facebook Connect, and offer social sign-in solutions which integrate with Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpaceID,Y!OS, Google and AOL. Their own API sits on top of Open ID in much the same way as Janrain’s engagement platform and they also have a number of plugins and widgets available which integrate with WordPress and Joomla.
Clickpass essentially wraps up the complexities of OpenID, and gives consistent signin behaviour in the form of a Clickpass button for a number of sites. For those visitors who already have a clickpass account, people can register with you without ever needing a password and the service lets people immediately sign up to you immediately using Google, Yahoo, Microsoft or Facebook accounts. You do however need to have an Open Id implementation running first, and Clickpass sits on top of that layer.
At the moment Clickpass are in the middle of rolling out version two of their API, and as such – don’t recommend developing against the old API, but it will be interesting to see what features and enhancements that brings to developers.
Facebook Connect was born out the massive number of profiles that now exist within Facebook. With visitors exceeding over 148 million for August (according to Comscore) – up from 145 in July, it’s traffic is showing no signs of slowing down. Tapping into that user base makes sense both from a traffic, and user experience perspective.
For users of Facebook Connect, notable features of the service include:
Trusted Authentication – easily login to participating sites using their Facebook account
Real Identity – leverage their identity across the Web in a trusted environment; no longer have to recreate a new profile on every Website
Friend Linking – take their friends with them and enable trusted social context anywhere on the Web
Social Distribution – share actions on participating sites with their friends on Facebook through News Feed
Key benefits for participating Websites include:
Increased engagement – leverage users’ personal interests to show more relevant information and surface personalized content from friends such as reviews or comments
New forms of distribution – users share content and actions taken on a third party site with friends back on Facebook, invites and other social communication channels on Facebook
Tutorials and links for Facebook connect
The below links are some of the best tutorials and links that I’ve found, and are geared more towards server side developers, who want to integrate Facebook directly into their application signup.
Facebook connect tutorial for PHP
Google Friend connect, and Facebook connect tutorial
For .NET dev’s including retrieving user data, and how to integrate Facebook connect.
Facebook connect tutorial for Rails (in 15 minutes)
Facebook PHP SDK now hosted on Githubs. Official docs here.
The below Facebook Connect tutorial is directly from some of the Facebook developers, and show how you can easily implement the service on your blog.
Again, with significant numbers, Twitter’s rise and rise has primarily been down to their API, with developers building great applications on top of their architecture. Whereas Facebook have integrated widgets, and particular products geared towards social signin, Twitter is yet to release an ‘official app’ which simplifies this process. To integrate your application with their user data, OAuth is now the standard for authentication, and receiving user data back from the Twitter API.
Tutorials and Links for Twitter
Net-tuts tutorial on how to authenticate with OAuth for Twitter.
Twitter offical dev page.
Twitter OAuth with Ruby.
The guys at Rapleaf have an interesting social media API which is currently being used in Rapportive, a social Gmail application. If it gains traction, it could definitely be one to watch, especially for publishers looking to further target advertising using social media as the catalyst.
Google Friend connect, is not yet dead in the water, although has gained anywhere near as much ground as Facebook connect. With the potential arrival of a new social layer on top of Google products (Google Me) – it definitely should be discounted in the future.
Wildfire app sits on top of Facebook, and facilitates easier sharing of your content with that network. It’s an out of the box social solution for Facebook, and makes running promotions that bit easier.