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XAuth, An Alternative to Facebook Connect to Let You... Erm... Connect


One insidious way Facebook's worming its way into the social net structures of large parts of the Web is via its "easy login" system Facebook Connect. Now there's some competition from newcomers XAuth, if only they believed in themselves.

According to ReadWriteWeb, there's going to be an announcement about XAuth sometime today from its consortium of backers/developers—a group that includes Google, Yahoo, Meebo, and MySpace. RRW calls it "Facebook Connect but for every other social network" because it essentially works in the same manner as Connect does, but it's cross-platform, and has hooks into multiple social networking systems that you may be a member of. This is important because, lest you forget, Facebook isn't yet the 100% be-all and end-all social network, and others still thrive—here in Portugal, for example, many youngsters prefer Hi5 to Facebook, or at least have profiles on both.

XAuth is actually a little different in its background tech to Facebook Connect, so it seems, but as a user you'd probably not notice. Where FC is designed to facilitate logging in to other sites (such as where commenting systems require membership, like ours here) but Facebook retains exclusive knowledge about your use of the system, XAuth is more of a centralized facilitator. It's designed to act as a resource manager, so that member sites can contact it to find out what you're up to on the social Web—meaning when you log in through a commenting system on a blog, for example, you can share your comments with whatever social net you've connected up to XAuth, rather than just Facebook.

The consortium is apparently hoping Facebook will join in at some point, but it seems unlikely, since we know Facebook loves owning your data, and resigning some of this identity-owning power (which translates into targeted ad revenues) would seem contrary to Facebook's previous grasping, grabbing efforts at keeping control.

Google's noting that XAuth and systems like it are just a temporary work-around until browsers themselves take on some of the management of your social Net presence, and let you perform this kind of auto-login and information sharing between Web sites and social nets—no doubt it's implying that Google Chrome will be able to do this, but it'd be surprising if other browser makers didn't leap aboard. And actually, this may be an important step...because have you considered exactly how much power through information you let seep into Facebook through its social tentacles spread across the Web? Google's vast data files on you are one matter, but Facebook's consistently displayed a cavalier, nay recklessly selfish attitude to users' private information, and this trend may only get worse over time. Hence XAuth may, if successful, prove a useful and important competitor, until the browsers catch up. It's also notable the XAuth is popping up, with some big-name backers, just as the innovative, but small, Ning (with its similar design as a catch-all social login service) starts to desperately batten down its hatches and try to stay alive.

Kit QR TwitterTo keep up with this news in a more real-time setting, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter. That QR code on the left will take you to my Twitter feed too. (And if you've no idea what that spotty-looking thing is, then find out here.)