Friend Connect was launched yesterday. It is very cool. It's basically a plug-and-play social network for a web site that merges the social networks of various major social networking sites plus your address book. In fact, this site is now a social network. Check out the sidebar. If you haven't tried out one of the Friend Connect sites yet, it's really worth trying, and you might as well start here. For the moment, I just have the comments and friends gadgets in the sidebar (and in this post), but will probably add some as new things become available.
But, more importantly, it's a big step on the path that OpenSocial started. Unfortunately, OpenSocial itself is a little opaque and confusing, but the root idea of allowing applications to uniformly access social data is important. However much people tend to deride some of the shallow social contact social networks provide, it provides a kind of ambient social interaction which is appealing and not necessarily shallow. There's no reason any site where meaningful interaction occurs (commenting, even co-reading, as with many blogs) shouldn't have a "social" aspect, where I can see the posts of my friends, see the friends of friends, etc. Friend Connect does that. Better yet, it turns any site into an OpenSocial container. Ok, enough sales pitch, I'm just enthused :)
One of the things I like a great deal about the board gaming community is that the online social interaction translates into in-person social interaction. If it weren't for the Unity Games mailing list (and others), boardgamegeek, or even other non-boardgaming focused social networks, I wouldn't be aware of and be able to participate in anywhere near the fraction of in-person gaming that I do. I suspect (and in some cases know) many other small site communities have the same effect, probably more so than the big generic social networks. The big social networks are often "really" about dating or getting a job. The smaller networks can be about board games, or knitting, or geocaching or whatever. The "me" social network is, uh, about reading this blog. And really, ever since I was a little boy, I've wanted to be a social network, so please join. Haven't you ever wanted to be a social network?
(Disclosure: I work for Google and know the team that built Friend Connect, but am not directly involved in its development. This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.)