Ever since Google+ was first revealed last year, there has been one question, quiet and constant, lingering in my mind: Why can’t I log in or sign up with Facebook?
Sure, Facebook was and remains to be Google+’s biggest obstacle to overcome, the undeniable “King of Social.” Does facilitating data transport or offering a faster way to sign up really promote your competitor, though? Honestly, I don’t know. Regardless, if one considers Google’s goals in creating Google+, the lack of “Log in with Facebook” remains a glaring ommision to me.
Here’s my interpretation of these goals:
- Become relevent in social — After several failed attempts, Google wanted to prove they could do something meaningful in the social network space.
- Leverage social data for advertising — Make no mistake about it, Google is an advertising company. Social graphs and information make for more targeted ads. More targeted ads are more effective. Effective ads are more valuable to both publishers and advertisers.
From the recent article by James Whittaker:
Google could still put ads in front of more people than Facebook, but Facebook knows so much more about those people. Advertisers and publishers cherish this kind of personal information, so much so that they are willing to put the Facebook brand before their own.
For these two reasons, I believe Google could have been far more successful with a Facebook login option. For one, by embracing the social network that has the most users gives, Google would immediately establish credibility — acknowledging the massive amounts of time that users have already devoted to the previous platform.
Second, and most importantly, Google would have instant access to swaths of user data. The Facebook API, when used, reveals an absurd amount of information about its users. Music, movies, and websites you like; Who your friends are; Seriously, shocking amounts of data.
Facebook offers its data to anyone and everyone on a silver platter, and Google is simply turning up its nose, saying, “No thanks.”
A potential legal snag
One potential explanation for the lack of Facebook integration is that such use may technically not be allowed by the Facebook API policy. More specifically, there appear to be limitations on using customer information for advertising — though I’ll be the first to admit, I’m certainly in no position to evaluate legal policy.
Equally ambiguous is this post from Facebook, "Operation Developer Love:"
If you are building an app whose purpose is to export data to another social network such as Google+, you should use Download Your Information, not Facebook Platform. We feel that Download Your Information strikes an appropriate balance between preserving the ability of people to transfer their data off of Facebook while protecting the privacy of their friends on Facebook.
I could see Facebook saying, “You can’t use our APIs to build a competitive product,” but the use of “should” above isn’t exactly clear. I wouldn’t be surprised the potential legal issues have more to do with the ommision of Facebook integration than the more philosophical “competition” argument.
Even with the potential usage limitations, I believe allowing users to sign up via Facebook would have lent Google a much needed degree of credibility. At the end of the day, a little button saying “Sign in with Facebook,” ends up saying so much more: We respect the years you’ve devoted to this other platform. We respect our neighbors, however competitive. We understand that we’re just getting started, and we’re willing to do whatever it takes to make using our new app as easy as possible.