Ethan Beard, Facebook's head of developer network, discusses Facebook Connect and its application to business at Le Web in Paris on 9 and 10 December 2009.
One of its key selling points seems to be that by taking the Facebook Connect API businesses get access to the 350 million registered users on Facebook that have allowed their data and identities to be used by third parties.
Over 60 million people a month are now using Facebook Connect, says Ethan Beard, who believes it has massive viral marketing opportunities for businesses.
Read the full transcript from this video below:
Video: Is Facebook Connect good for business?
James Garner: We are at Le Web, in Paris. I am talking with Ethan Beard, who is Director of the Facebook Developer Network. Ethan, I just want to talk to you about Facebook and Facebook Connect and how that has developed over the last year or so. Can you give us a bit of history on that?
Ethan Beard: Sure, James. It is great to be here. Thank you for talking to me. Facebook Platform launched about two and a half years ago, back in 2007. We originally created it as a place to build applications inside of Facebook, and we have seen some great success with that. We now have over 500,000 applications -- 1 million developers are actually building applications inside of Facebook, and over 300 of them actually have 1 million users, using them every single month. About a year ago, almost exactly a year ago, we launched Facebook Connect, which in essence, give you all the same functionality but lets you take it out to the broader web. We can talk a little bit more about what that means, but we have seen pretty remarkable success in just a year. Over 60 million people a month are actually using Facebook Connect out in the broader web in general. We reach about 50% of the global.com Score top 100 websites; it is about 80,000 sites that are using Facebook Connect.
James Garner: Impressive figures there. Obviously, that is very interesting from our perspective because that allows business to use Facebook as a platform, and take it out and to use it within their organizations. How are you seeing them doing that? How is that working?
Ethan Beard: Really, the reason why businesses are adopting Facebook Connect is three things that happen when you work with Facebook Connect. The first is it allows you to tap into Facebook, to have a really simple registration on your site, so a user can, with one click, log into your website, which really breaks down the barrier for a lot of websites that we have seen. Everybody wants to have registration. Frequently they are making users jump through registration forms and confirmation emails. With this, with one click, a user brings their identity with them to your site. What is remarkable about Facebook, with 350 million users on it, they actually have their real identity, their real selves, so they are not just having simple registration; they bring their real self with them.
In doing so, you actually have the ability to customize what your website looks like and provide an experience that is more social. You can show a user what their friends are doing on their site, customize it around their interests, because it all comes with them, so it increases engagement on your site. People spend more time because it is more interesting, compelling, and engaging experience. Additionally, it is very easy for users to share information back to Facebook about activities they are taking, information that they like. They can share it to Facebook, all their friends see it, and that brings traffic back to your site.
James Garner: From a business perspective, how does that help businesses develop their business, communicate with their audience better, and that sort of thing?
Ethan Beard: It is twofold. One, it allows you to more directly customize and personalize the site for a user, so you are communicating with them in a more compelling and more engaging way, and additionally it allows you to take the users that are coming to your site and use them as a spokesperson and tap into their network of friends. Each person on Facebook has, on average about 130 friends, so every user that is coming to your site, you have the ability to actually re-tap to their friends and communicate. Facebook has grown through viral distribution, and it is really actually tapping into that tool for your site.
James Garner: From a business perspective, you can get to a much wider audience for that social graph.
Ethan Beard: Correct, exactly.
James Garner: We are at Le Web, where it is all about the real-time web and how it is developing. What do you see are the developments that are really happening in this space at the moment?
Ethan Beard: There are a lot of exciting things going on; if you walk around here there are tons of interesting companies. I spoke about how Facebook Platform evolved from being inside of Facebook into out in the broader web. We are seeing companies of all different sizes that are developing, not just on the web, but developing on the desktop, developing on the mobile applications, all starting to use Facebook Connect to tie together all these different platforms, with the common thread being the social aspect. In essence, you are able to engage with your friends from any application, from any site, to any site.
James Garner: The difference with Facebook over other tools that you may be able to use to do that, being the fact you have got so many more users in there, that allows business to tap in with those registration details. Who holds those registration details? Obviously, that stays with you.
Ethan Beard: Yes. We actually believe that the information that a user puts into Facebook is theirs. They own it, and they choose who they want to share it with. Facebook has grown a lot because we give users control; we give them the ability to share that information. They keep it, but when they go to a site, they can choose to share that with the site. For example, you can actually ask a user to share their actual email address with you through the registration, so you can use that to communicate offline though email. You can have complete ownership over the user, but it is the user's data, we still believe, ultimately.
James Garner: The user would make the choice, though, to share that data?
Ethan Beard: Correct.
James Garner: For a business they can then, if the user agrees, they can use that data, as well -- it comes to them.
Ethan Beard: Yes, absolutely.
James Garner: Which you can see is quite compelling for a lot of businesses.
Ethan Beard: Yes, definitely.
James Garner: What we have seen at Le Web: We have seen Twitter open up its API. How do you see things going on that front? Is that front an opportunity for Facebook, in terms of how things are developing in that area?
Ethan Beard: Sure. At Facebook, what you will see from us is we will just continue to open up more and more of what is inside of Facebook, make it easier for users to share their information and connect with their friends anywhere and everywhere. I would say some of the big difference is that at Facebook, we have 350 million users; we are growing exceptionally quickly. Half of those people come to our site every single day, so they are extremely engaged, and they are their real selves, and they have this authentic identity. They are not just a username and just following strangers. They bring their real friends, their real identities, they are their real selves, which allows you to really create some exciting experiences.
James Garner: Excellent. Anything you can see, that is going into the big developments in 2010, in this space? Would you see more of the same, or would you see anything new developing?
Ethan Beard: A big push, for us, I think, is what we were just speaking about, in terms of cross-platform integration, and really is the ability to take your Facebook experience and your Facebook friends with you across lots of different devices. Whether you are using an application on a mobile device or using it on the web, you are able to communicate with your friends, and, really, Facebook and Facebook Connect can be this glue that ties all of those platforms together.
James Garner: With the real-time web, we will also move much more into the mobile space, as well.
Ethan Beard: I think so, yes. I think mobile is a big opportunity.
James Garner: Excellent. Ethan, thank you very much for talking to us.
Ethan Beard: Absolutely, James. It was great talking to you.
James Garner: Nice to meet you.
Ethan Beard: Likewise.
James Garner: Cheers.