Pros and Cons of Building a Site Around FBConnect

fbconnect1FBConnect 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:

Pros
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.

Cons
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.

Overall
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.

8 responses to “Pros and Cons of Building a Site Around FBConnect

  1. An Idea: Couldn’t you collect emails when you ask people to invite people in their Gmail or Yahoo! address book? I’m not sure what that widget allows, but its a thought.

    I also would suggest, if you are trying to streamline the log in process, not asking for email addresses there, but instead awarding them for entering them in later.

    Otherwise, a nice clear review. 🙂

  2. O. Frabjous-Dey

    You’re also basically forced to use your real name, aren’t you?

    There are a lot of people who will only use social content websites if they can hide behind a pseudonym. The Internet is a permanent record, and you don’t necessarily want what you say to be tied to your name, especially in the Age of Google.

    I guess you could implement a layer of abstraction that hides your real name behind a username on the site.

  3. Did you consider making your login system and facebook and letting users choose either?

  4. Good post, guys. I think early adopters of FB Connect will gain exposure from appearing in users’ activity feeds. However, I wonder if the advantage will persist as more sites get on the bandwagon, with more and more feed items competing for FB users’ attention.

  5. A good point, Andre. I wonder if Facebook will have a way they sift through the thousands of alerts that will eventually be coming in to chose which to show their users. Its definitely an issue that developers, users, and Facebook will need to address.

    We have considered that, Jeff, and aren’t immediately opposed. We just plan to integrate your social network pretty extensively, and it may mean designing nearly two separate sites. We do plan to make this an option in time, but we wanted to launch entirely with FBConnect first.

  6. We’re looking to utilize FB Connect for our current application, although we won’t be launching completely with FB Connect.

    I’m curious as to how users will react to a 100% FBConnect site.

  7. Pingback: Top Posts « WordPress.com

  8. Good Point, I also am considering to use FB Connect exclusively. But was dissappointed that I couldnt store any users’ information.

    You mentioned, that you aren’t allow their email, but other information. What other information?
    As I want to add the users that login to my database, but not sure how to? Since I cant store any data

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