FBConnect is one of Facebook’s newest initiatives; it lets you login to third-party sites using your Facebook login and password. Further, if you’re logging into a site for the first time, it’ll auto-fill the page with your existing information (such as name, interests, and location).
Up until now, most of the sites that use FBConnect, such as Digg, give you the option to login with either a local account or your Facebook account. We’re going to go a step farther, implementing FBConnect as our exclusive login system.
While FBConnect is powerful, it isn’t perfect. Here are the Pros and Cons that factored into our decision to use it:
Faster development time. Our goal is to launch Trogger as quickly as possible. By choosing to use FBConnect, we cut out the time it takes to build our own registration form.
More context and specificity for users. Since everyone logs in using FBConnect, we can fully incorporate all the rich, structured data that Facebook has to offer. This means you can find out more about what your friends are doing, incorporate Trogger activity in your newsfeeds, and even be shown relevant conversations based on your list of interests.
Viral growth on steroids. One of my favorite parts of FBConnect is that it lets users publish their activity to their Facebook newsfeed. For example, if you start a conversation on Trogger, you can post it to your feed in a single click. Instantly, all your friends will see a prominent feed item when they visit your profile: “John Smith has just started a conversation on Trogger,” complete with link and description.
Simplified login and sign-up. Long sign-up forms are a great way to discourage visitors from signing up and becoming full-fledged members. FBConnect helps solve this problem by allowing you to login with your current Facebook account. If it’s your first time signing up, your Facebook information gets transferred over, so that there’s no need to fill out page after page of fields describing yourself.
You’re locked into a single system. By relying on Facebook as our sole point of entry, we face several potential pitfalls. Facebook’s servers might go down for minutes, if not hours, effectively preventing anyone from logging in. Some people may object to entering their Facebook information on a third-party site. Not to mention, Facebook might decide, for whatever reason, to prevent us from using FBConnect, to start charging exorbitant access fees, or to shut down the service altogether.
Limited user base. Lots of people use Facebook, but not everyone. Their user base is roughly 100 million people, which, while large, could certainly be higher. If someone comes to Trogger and doesn’t have a Facebook account, I imagine that most of them will leave deterred.
No email addresses. When a user signs into your site with FBConnect, Facebook provides you with some information about them, but leaves out one crucial data point: their email address. The only way to get someone’s address is to ask for it separately, adding an extra step to the sign-up process. While this isn’t the end of the world, it does add an extra step to what is supposed to be a streamlined login process.
Limited photo caching. Facebook lets you cache a user’s photo for a maximum of 24 hours. As a result, when you’re visiting a page with a lot of photos obtained via FBConnect, a distinctive “pop” appears as they suddenly all show up, 2 to 10 seconds after the rest of the page loads. This is distracting, obnoxious, and utterly preventable. A friend of mine within the company tells me that they’re working on a way around this, and I’m hoping it comes soon.
We decided that the Pros of FBConnect outweigh their Cons. We’ll be opting for FBConnect’s speed, engagement, and deep integration in exchange for a smaller base of potential users, less control of the login process, and restricted access to user data.
As we grow, we may look at incorporating other authenticated login systems, such as Google Friend Connect. For now, though, we’re sticking to FBConnect so we can build our site faster, and focus on integrating with Facebook’s powerful News Feed distribution.