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NBC Privileges Facebook Connect

NBC Uses Facebook Connect As An Exclusive Login

I won’t be commenting on any NBC Olympics blog posts, or giving them a thumbs-up. That’s because the only option for commenting voting is Facebook Connect.

Unlike the federal government, which has also privileged Facebook Connect, NBC is a corporation. It has no “taxpayer public interest” that should mandate the option of an open — non-proprietary, non-commercial — platform such as OpenID.  But it should have advocates on its web dev staff who can convince their bosses that consumer choice in matters like this is in the corporation’s best interest.

NBC is telling its web audience that it only wants to hear from people who are part of the Facebook ecosystem. I believe that is short-sighted. I know that Facebook may be the 800-pound social networking gorilla, but not everyone in the U.S. — or the world, for that matter — has opted in. Moreover, many people who do have Facebook accounts choose to use the service minimally.

And given Facebook’s change-of-heart on which information it will decide tomorrow should be public (even though it was once-upon-a-time private or controlled by the individual), why would I entrust it with additional information about my digital meanderings?

Maybe that’s why the comments seem sparse in the “Get In The Games” blog — the one that has as its subtitle “Share your thoughts on all the action at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.” I checked out today’s post (no comments) and Friday’s (only 14). There’s a thumbs up (but no thumb down) button — but no indication that anyone has actually endorsed either post. It was clicking the “like” link as a test (I wanted to see what I’d need to do regarding registration) that lead to the Facebook Connect popup.

Just say no to any commercial (or government!) web site that provides only one proprietary way to interact — whether it’s Facebook Connect or Twitter or Google. Well, do more than say no silently — speak up and tell them why you are saying no.

And think twice before using Facebook Connect.

Addendum: I realized last night that I had only tried to vote, not comment. The login set my teeth on such edge that I forgot to double-check the comment rules. Who in their right mind makes it harder to vote than to comment? To vote, you have to log in with Facebook Connect. To comment, you can be anonymous, which is the most harebrained system I can imagine.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

5 replies on “NBC Privileges Facebook Connect”

In my experience, it’s hard for the end user. OpenID sounds too technical and the implementation is more than most people are comfortable with. I always think about my dad when working on new products and ask, will my dad use this? Not “can dad use this?” because he’s a smart guy who can figure it out, but will he? If the process has just one click too many, he (and apparently millions of other web users) won’t go near it. In my opinion, OpenID isn’t ready for prime time yet because it’s not simple and easy enough yet.

Real names… not so important on Olympics blogs, but our editors take it very seriously on community news sites. To them, comments are a huge step backwards and jeopardize the news org’s credibility. They want the checks and balances that they have with letters to the editor. They want control and accountability (halmarks of newspaper editors everywhere). My position is that if we can offer it up, great, but I’m not breaking my back to build a system that requires real IDs. The good news for our editors is that our users actually like to use Facebook Connect to comment, so they get their precious real ID as a side effect.

I think @howardowens has a real ID system in place at but it’s mostly a manual system that relies on him checking new registrations. Good for him, but the system doesn’t scale.

Agreed about the odd thumbs up button. I think they wanted it to post your action to your Facebook news feed, rather than provide yet another useless social widget that brings them no traffic.

Thanks, Seth. I’ve not worked the back-end …. so I wasn’t aware that OpenID was hard. It seemed pretty simple to turn a site into one that could be used as OpenID (I’ve done some reading about that part), so I’d hoped the other half was also true.

Why is “real name” important? I certainly understand why anonymity is not preferred (it’s not conducive to civility), but forcing someone to use their “real name”? To talk about Olympics uniforms?

And thanks for that tidbit about commenting v thumbs-up. It occurred to me last night that I’d only tried to use the thumbs-up feature, not actually comment. That’s because if anything was going to have a low-barrier of identification, I thought it would be the “anonymous” vote. What a screwed up system!

I’ve been going back and forth about Facebook Connect for a few weeks. We offer it as one of 5 login methods for our comments (thanks to Disqus) and I appreciate the fact that OpenID is one of our offerings. Being practical about it, though: Facebook is all that matters to my sites’ members and writers.

First, OpenID is too hard. It needs to get better or be replaced. This week’s “facebook login” craziness at Read Write Web showed us just how much work is left do to on our technologies if everyday users are going to adopt them.

Second, at the moment Facebook is currently the only login method where you can be reasonably assured that members are using their real names. It is the closest thing to true identity on the ‘net. Journalists – especially the crusty curmudgeons who hate comments on their stories – love this about Facebook.

Third, a huge portion of our audience is already on Facebook. There are too many barriers to getting people to sign up for a new account and Facebook makes it push-button simple for the vast majority of site members. On my sites, Facebook Connect is the #1 account type because anything else requires more work for the user. What’s more, Facebook offers a fairly full suite of community tools that help bring content back to Facebook users. News sites, typically not the biggest spenders, see this as an easy way to tap into a massive user base, rather than build one from scratch. It’s difficult to turn down. (example: Huffington Post)

I have heard from some folks that they don’t like, don’t trust, and won’t use Facebook Connect on our sites – so it’s a good thing that we offer a variety of ID systems. So long as I can offer a variety of options, I will, but Facebook’s size and strength (even in some of our smallest markets), make it more and more difficult to avoid using the rest of their suite.

BTW, the NBC site let me comment without Facebook Connect but the thumbs up button did require it.

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