Facebook Expands Its iPhone Presence

How many login IDs and passwords do you have? How often do you register for a new Internet or iPhone app service by filling out registration forms with your name, e-mail, address, etc.? Earlier this year, Facebook released the Facebook Connect platform to developers. When incorporated into an app, it would allow you to use your Facebook account to log into a growing list of participating Web sites and services. In addition, Facebook Connect would allow iPhone users to bring their Facebook information to iPhone apps and share app information with friends.

This means that, as developers begin rolling out apps with the Facebook Connect platform built in, you can easily challenge your Facebook friends to duels, see who’s the smartest, or post high scores on your Facebook feed, often without even lifting a finger.

What to expect

Several developers have been quick to release apps that utilize the new platform, and that number is growing because of the way Facebook Connect is changing gaming. Who Has the Biggest Brain (playfish.com) allows users to log in using their Facebook Profile, post high scores and trophies to their Facebook feed, and track who’s the smartest amongst all their Facebook friends who also have the game. This social element of the game is arguably its best quality; it adds a competitive and addictive element to an app that might otherwise be seen as just another brain game.

Users can expect to see more games that are based entirely on social networks. For example, Zynga (zynga.com) recently released its popular Facebook app Mafia Wars to the iPhone. In this game, you and your Facebook friends build your own crime family, do “jobs,” and fight other crime families in an effort to become top dog. The more friends who join you, the more powerful you become.

You can expect to start seeing apps that go beyond posting to your Facebook feed and playing with your friends. Developers can use Facebook Connect to create apps that ask you for permission to upload photos, update users’ statuses, create events, RSVP to events, upload videos, create notes, and share links. They can even create apps that send you an SMS or respond to your SMS. This creates the potential for some great utility and productivity apps, as well as more creative games and entertainment apps.

Developer benefits

Apps incorporating Facebook Connect provide developers with a number of advantages. If a user posts a high score or achievement in a particular game, that information is broadcast to all of his or her friends. Seeing that post, some friends will download the game and post achievements of their own, creating free word-of-mouth advertising that grows exponentially. It’s great for the developer!

In addition, developers have access to information about their existing users and can create ads that are better targeted towards potential ones. This can mean more profits for the developers and more interesting advertisements for the users. But what about this access to user information? What exactly will developers find out about their Facebook Connect users?

Is Big Brother watching?

Facebook has had its fair share of privacy concerns, especially over the unannounced policy changes in February. The reaction to these changes prompted Facebook to implement a new voting system for approval of all its new policies. No need to worry too much about Facebook Connect—your information is as safe as you make it. By default, applications you add through Facebook Connect can see almost all the info on your profile including photos, interests, and work history. But what may be surprising is that apps you add can see all of your friends’ information, too, even if they don’t have the app. This means that even if you’ve never used Facebook Connect or don’t have an iPhone, apps could be accessing your information through your friends and you won’t even know it. All of these settings can be changed via Facebook’s Privacy Settings—show as much or as little info as you want. You can even opt out of Facebook Connect entirely if you want.

The future of Facebook Connect

What does the future hold for Facebook Connect? If Facebook were to partner with Apple, users could expect some really radical changes. The iPhone could use Facebook information as their login or AT&T signup information, effectively tethering your identity to your iPhone. This would eliminate the need to log into anything and allow you to bring your identity with you anywhere on the Web or in your apps.

How will Facebook Connect affect the end user and the developer?
Summer 2009
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