I’ve been trying to decide for a while whether or not I agree with using FB Connect to log on to various sites. On the plus side users can instantly connect to a site, see who is using the platform from their network, and get a somewhat personalized service. On the backend, developers can access an array of information about their users from facebook, which could, if used properly, really enhance the service. Knowing a users social graph, likes, interests, activities, etc is super powerful. But with great power obviously comes responsibility, and a bunch of startups out there have come up with very creative ways to abuse the FB Connect button. Take Honestly.com for example. The other day I found this in my inbox, seemingly innocent, yet totally unexpected from both parties.
Here’s what apparently happened, coming from my friend whos name is blurred out, which I did using Aviary.com and their new HTML5 photo editor.. highly recommended for quick edits and novice photoshoppers like myself.
The homepage on Honestly.com asks you to connect through facebook. It then provides a list of people in your network and then shows a button that says “follow”. Now “follow” normally implies that the people listed there are people also using the service. Anyone in their right mind would begin adding friends that are also on the same platform… until you realize that Honestly.com’s true intention is send an automated spam blast to everyone you just clicked on in your facebook social network, and get this, your gmail address book. I would say customer acquisition costs for this type of campaign are probably about $0.00 considering the viral coefficient. With 10 initial customers who each send an average of 50 “follows” (because they think these friends are already part of the service) at a 20% conversion rate of invites into new customers, the viral coefficient (K) = 10. Honestly, honestly.com, thats nuts.
Anyways, not to discredit Honestly.com, formerly known as Unvarnished, the site actually looks pretty interesting. It allows users to manage and research professional reputation online. I don’t think taking advantage of Fb Connect, intentionally or not, will leave a good reputation, but it just goes to show how careful you have to be about user experience.
Startups like Jibe, for example, have done an amazing job incorporating Fb Connect and LinkedIn to show users where their friends have or are currently working and the jobs available from companies Amazon, Conde Nast, and MTV. Even if you’re not looking for jobs, the value add for seeing what companies and industries your network works in an easy-to-use interface is great and feels completely secure. Startups take notice, this is a proper way to use features like fb Connect.