Facebook Launches Connect for the iPhone

Yesterday (Saturday) at the SXSW event in Austin Facebook formally launched Facebook Connect for the iPhone. For those unfamiliar with Connect, which competes with OpenID, it allows you to use Facebook's sign-in credentials rather than those of the particular site. It also integrates your activities on the third party site into your newsfeed. And your Facebook network may be integrated into the app to varying degrees. 

The company said that the following apps/developers were participating at launch:

  • Agency Wars
  • Binary Game
  • iBowl
  • Live Poker
  • Tap Tap Revenge 2
  • Urbanspoon
  • Who Has the Biggest Brain?
  • Whrrl 

Taking Urbanspoon as an example . . . when you launch the app, you're offered the opportunity to "invite friends" and share opinions. This "invite friends" functionality has been there for some time. But it's tedious and "manual." You add email contacts individually. Now, however, you can "connect with Facebook," which taps you and Urbanspoon into Facebook.

You then sign in with your Facebook credentials and can send reviews/ratings of restaurants back to your Facebook news feed (being renamed "activity stream" to emulate Twitter). Once signed in you will be able to see your Facebook friends' reviews on Urbanspoon.

Facebook Connect for the iPhone is a significant development because it extends the reach of Facebook Connect into the iPhone (an increasingly important platform) but it also adds an immediate social layer to participating iPhone apps. As with Urbanspoon, some iPhone apps/publishers have been trying to build their own user networks -- with limited success in most cases. 

Participating apps will also get exposure through Facebook that they wouldn't otherwise have had. Thus a new app could gain adoption in a more accelerated way or a successful app could see success further extended through Facebook.  Indeed, Facebook might help extend the life of apps that would otherwise be abandoned.

While the move is consistent with Facebook's strategy around making Connect an extension of the social network as "platform," think of this new implementation as not unlike what AdMob did in building an iPhone specific offering, which was enormously successful and helped boost the company's visibility in the market. Facebook certainly doesn't need more visibility but it's striving to become the dominant "mobile social network." Success on the iPhone, among other mobile platforms, could establish Facebook's dominance in mobile. 

If the OpenID coalition fails to match Facebook on the iPhone, it may also tip the overall balance toward Facebook in its "battle" with OpenID.