Google+ Sign-in aims to lure users and developers away from Facebook

Google takes on Facebook with a new set of single sign-on keys along with tools for developers to create interactive posts

In a move to wrest a bigger hunk of social networking cake away from Facebook, Google has introduced Google+ Sign-in, which lets users log into a website or application with a single click using their Google+ credentials. At a basic level, the technology is an obvious copycat of Facebook's sign-in tool, but Google is dangling features to make its keys more desirable to users and developers.

Google's ambitions here are evident: The company has struggled to make an impact with Google+ and the service needs to look more appealing both to users and to developers to boost engagement. Thus, Google's not just offering a free single sign-in authentication system for developers: It's providing free tools for developers to build interactive posts through which Google+ users can engage with third-party apps and websites, a console for tracking that engagement, and Over-The-Air Install capability that lets users install apps directly to their Android devices via the Web with a click.

The basic idea behind Google Sign-in is straightforward: When a user visits a website for the first time, he or she may click a Google+ Sign-In button to sign in using his or her Google+ login credentials. That saves the user the trouble of creating a new account and of keying in personal information that can easily be imported from his or her Google+ account. Google is touting this capability as a means of saving developers from having to create their own authentication systems. That's not much different than what Facebook's and Twitter's sign-in tools do.

Google+ Sign-in aims to lure users and developers away from Facebook

What Google has added is the ability for website owners to create interactive posts that include a "call-to-action button," prompting users to engage with your app from Google+. For example, if you own an online widget store, you could set it up such that a visitor to your site could share your newest widget in his or her Google+ stream with a click. The resulting post could include a Buy button, which other Google+ users could click to initiate a purchase through your Web storefront. Other call-to-action buttons include Listen, Answer, Add to Wishlist, and dozens more. From there, a site or app owner could track the engagement level with the interactive post via Google+ Platform Insights.

Google+ Platform Insights is a console featuring analytics with in-depth data about the health of one's Google+ Sign-In integration. Site owners or developers can visualize how their interactive posts are spreading, uncover trends, and tweak posts to boost engagement. Platform Insights measures Google Play Store installs by day, week, and month; there's also a link to the Android developer console, where you can dig deeper into your Android app's stats.

A Google-branded sign-in button naturally raises privacy concerns. After all, end-users may not feel comfortable letting Google monitor their online activities even more closely or letting Google and a third-party site share information about them and their contacts. That's just what Google+ Sign-in enables, too. "With a user's permission, Google+ Sign-In lets you improve your service by giving you access to their basic information from their public profile and the list of people in their circles," according to Google.

Users can opt to have their app activity on a third-party site show up on Google+ profiles, along the lines of "Joe Bob reviewed a photo by Jane Doe on UberPics." That, too, is reminiscent of arguably spammy posts that show up in on Facebook feeds when friends read an article or play a song on Spotify. Google, however, claims its integration service eliminates spam spraying: "Sometimes you want to share something with the world (like a high score), but other times you want to keep things to yourself (like fitness goals)," wrote Seth Sternberg, director of product management at Google+. "With Google+ Sign-In and circles, you decide who to share with, if at all. In addition: Google+ doesn't let apps spray 'frictionless' updates all over the stream, so app activity will only appear when it's relevant (like when you're actually looking for it)."

Google has sweetened sign-in for Android developers: When signing into a site or application on the Web, users have the option of instantly sending a developer's Android app directly to their devices. Developers need only register their project and app clients via the Google APIs Console. Direct installs from the Google Play Store are limited to free apps that exceed a quality threshold.

This story, "Google+ Sign-in aims to lure users and developers away from Facebook," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

How to choose a low-code development platform