Google this week announced the ability for companies to offer their users a single point of access to their application, much like Facebook's Connect feature. Developers building apps for Android, iOS, or the web can now add a feature enabling users to sign in to apps outside of Google with their existing credentials, simplifying sign-in for users.
Clearly, the move for Google is an attempt to expand its role as the social network of choice. "Between using Google+, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Docs, Google is going out there with a pretty massive base," says Harry Gold, CEO of digital marketing firm Overdrive Interactive.
Google says automatic sign-in will accelerate online registration and conversion, increase engagement among users, and, most key, give companies access to data on downloads, signed-in users, and their activity.
Ten companies have already implemented the Google sign-in, including publishers USA Today and The Guardian, restaurant guide OpenTable, Flixster, Fitbit, music sharing sites Shazam and TuneIn, discovery sites Banjo and Fancy, and Beautylish.
"This will give us great insights on the behavior and interests of Shazam users and will also enabled targeted in-app advertising based on artists and genres that people are listening to," says David Jones, EVP for marketing at Shazam. Jones told ClickZ that the new version of Shazam incorporating the Google sign-in had gone up in a matter of days.
He also predicted greater engagement among users, as Shazam users share the music they tag with their friends, who will also be able to click on those links and listen. The site already has some 300 million users.
Unlike Facebook however, Google promises only to publish such information with specific user permission. "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)," the company said in its announcement of the new feature. Users can first review the Google+ permissions screen outlining which data they are sharing and who can see their activity.
Somewhat ironically, companies with Google Brand pages that seek to sign in using their Google credentials may have more difficulty than a personal user, according to Alex Fender, a Google-certified consultant who runs digital marketing consultancy Funnel Science. Although the sign-in feature is open to any Google user, only brand pages with Google+ can use sign-in, he notes. But Google now requires companies that use Google+ to sign up for Google Apps for Business, a formerly free service that is now subscription only. (After a free trial period, it costs either $5 per user per month or $50 per user per year.)
But there are bugs in the verification process for Google Apps for Business that can lead to lengthy delays, according to Fender, who says he has helped around 100 SMEs implement Google Apps for Business. "The last client I worked with took two and half months to validate and was caused by errors that Google hadn't seen before. What should only take a few minutes now takes weeks," said Fender. "I think Google should stick with its core business model of search and they should quit trying to one up Facebook," he concludes.
A Google spokesman said that he was not aware of issues with the verification process.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
March 19, 2014