Yesterday, Google launched a preview release of Google Friend Connect at Campfire One. The premise is neat: Google provides you with a directory of pre-programmed social widgets (slash gadgets, slash modules, slash whatever you want to call them) that you can install on your website simply by pasting HTML code. All kinds of authentication formats are accepted, from Google Accounts to OpenID and beyond. For more nitty-gritty details, head for the official blog post or the Google Webmaster Central version (the latter is simpler).
Incidentally, there was a huge blogstorm about this yesterday, before it was officially announced and before the site was available. Rex Hammock thinks it might be the highest single-day pageview count for a 404 Error page, as he briefly states in a post entitled “Google’s new Not Found feature is really fun“. Go ahead, it’s worth a click. (Well, Ctrl+click or Shift+click if you want to keep reading this 😉 but you already knew that, right?)
So, it sounds interesting enough that I want to get in on it. Like Google App Engine (my own coverage) from last month, there’s a waiting list. (I got into App Engine, by the way, and immediately wasted one of my three indelible applications with a useless test listing I’ll never code. There really should be a delete function in App Engine, but I digress…)
Unlike App Engine, though, this waiting list is powered by a Google Spreadsheets form. And this one doesn’t work. I get a nice generic error message, which leaves me totally in the dark as to what went wrong. Argh. (It did get fixed though; see update below.)
Until it’s working (I’ll speculate why it’s borked in just a moment), I’ll paste my additional info paragraph here, just as an example (who knows, you might want to use it as a template 😀 ):
Initially I plan to just experiment with the service and see what it can do, but I think I might come up with a brilliant idea to actually use it for real as part of one of the sites I manage. http://www.swrobotics.com/ comes to mind as another possible site where I’d use it.
So anyway, why might this Google sign-up form not be working?
Since it’s based on a Google Spreadsheet, it’s bound by the limitations of the platform. Spreadsheets are limited (only one thread of many) to 10,000 rows, and with the publicity this launch got it’s completely believable that 10,000 developers already applied. This is the price for Google eating its own dog food (so to speak). I guess in a way it’s a good thing that they don’t give themselves superpowers in their own services.
Meanwhile, I can’t sign up for the waiting list. Oh well, it’s not like I’d get immediate access anyway. Being locked out has increased my interest, too, so perhaps using a limited submission system was a calculated move on Google’s part to generate even more desire to sign up. Who knows? It’s working on me.
Anyone who gets in on it, please let me know what the interface is like from the inside. I’ll probably post again if and when I gain access myself, but advance knowledge would be nice to have. (Yes, I will be watching Google blogs, official and unofficial, for more info as well.)
Meanwhile, I can brainstorm. This site already has social features (comments), but perhaps I’d like to do more. A sidebar game or something. Perhaps not, but you get the idea.
The Southwest Robotics website might have a comments area added where people can chat about the team’s efforts or robots in general. There’s definite potential in that idea. I’ll have to take it up with my teammates.
Other than those few examples, I’m sure there a vast number of gadgets that I don’t know about yet. Only getting into the service will allow me to really see what’s possible. Stay tuned for more opinions as I can generate them.
[Google Friend Connect logo from the Google site, displayed under a Fair Use claim; error screenshot taken myself, site design and imagery copyright Google, also Fair Use claim]