Yahoo! has thrown their hat in the ring and joined the hottest new trend on the Web, shipping your very own "Connect" technology. What is a "Connect" technology? David Recordon does a good job of summarizing the common characteristics of this new category of technology offerings in his post Anatomy of "Connect" where he wrote

a straw man definition of a "Connect" application:

  1. Profile: Everything having to do with identity, account management and profile information ranging from sign in to sign out on the site I'm connecting with.
  2. Relationships: Think social graph. Answers the question of who do I know on the site I've connected with and how I can invite others.
  3. Content: Stuff. All of my posts, photos, bookmarks, video, links, etc that I've created on the site I've connected with.
  4. Activity: Poked, bought, shared, posted, watched, loved, etc. All of the actions that things like the Activity Streams project are starting to take on.

In my mind, the Goals of all of these "Connect" applications are focused on helping people discover new content, people they already know as well as new people with similar interests.

Facebook launched this trend with their announcement of Facebook Connect which offered an alternative to OpenID by offering a smoother user experience and the opportunity for sites to also leverage their news feed as a viral distribution mechanism. According to the Yahoo! Developer blog there is now a similar offering from Yahoo! announced in their post Extend Your Publishing Reach with JS-Kit + Yahoo! Updates which states

Here's how it works: Integration with the Social Directory API allows JS-Kit to display a user’s Yahoo! nickname and avatar picture on the site. Integration with the Updates API allows JS-Kit to publish an item to the Yahoo! Updates feed when a user adds a comment to a web site powered by JS-Kit. At all times, your users remain in control of their data by leveraging OAuth to broker data access between Yahoo! and JS-Kit.

Yahoo! Updates allow publishers (and publishing partners like JS-Kit), to syndicate user-generated actions (ratings, reviews, comments, favorites, and uploads) to Yahoo!'s massive global distribution network. In the coming months, as Updates are implemented across Yahoo!, publishers will enjoy referral traffic back to their sites from across the Yahoo! Network (more than 500M+ monthly unique visitors).

The more of these "Connect" offerings that are announced the more they seem like introducing a new problem instead of creating a solution. Back in the day, it was easy to argue that having a button on your site is more palatable than the OpenID login box prompting users to enter some obscure URL. However when I go to places like Sun's website and see a comment box with the following

I wonder if this is progress. There are even more perverse cases like StackOverflow whose current login page looks like

Of course, this is just StackOverflow's attempt to make the OpenID sign-in process easier for users instead of having them remember some obscure URL. Still I wonder about the paradox of choice style experience that is being thrown in front of users. Whenever I go to Hacker News I actually forget which of my various Facebook/Windows Live/Google/Yahoo IDs I've previously associated with the site via ClickPass. It actually would have been easier and less confusing for me to just create a regular account on the site like did with Reddit which would also enable cookies to work so I wouldn't have to sign-in every single time.

I also wonder about the unnecessary duplicative efforts it will take sites to integrate all of these different "Connect" offerings as well especially when you consider how radically different APIs like Facebook's friends.get are from Yahoo's Contacts API. I'm typically against premature standardization but when you have almost half a dozen offerings that effectively do the same thing but with radically different APIs it may be time for standards to start showing up.

Note Now Playing: Domino - Sweet Potatoe Pie Note


Thursday, March 5, 2009 9:40:31 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
It would be nice If I could see images in your blog posts, but I'm never allowed to because my employer uses websense to block requests to 'Personal Network Storage and Backup' sites. It's pretty ridiculous, but that's the nonsense corporate developers like me have to deal with.

Whatever happened to the good old days when web site owners posted images referencing files on the same domain as the web page? If you must host images on some other service, can't you get a sub-domain on that service so that authoritarian corporate infrastructure apps don't try to block it? Something like

On a lighter side, I love reading the text content of your blog. Thanks.
Typical Corporate Reader
Friday, March 6, 2009 12:19:25 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
"it may be time for standards to start showing up. "
Indeed - fortunately they have - we have OpenID (which you mention and is clearly well-supported - even by MSFT), OAuth (which is used by Google, Yahoo, MySpace, Twitter, all OpenSocial implementers and many more), PortableContacts (Google, Yahoo, MSFT, MySpace, all OpenSocial implementers), Activity streams (G, Y, MySpace, all OpenSocial implementers).

From its live launch last May, Google Friend Connect has supported these standards; it's great to see more sites converging on them too, including MySpace with their MySpaceID effort this week.
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