Facebook is finally ready to expand its social networking tentacles beyond Facebook.com, the New York Times is reporting this morning, with the adoption of Facebook Connect by a number of partner Web sites.
This capability, announced earlier this year, will essentially let users take their Facebook data and use it on other Web properties.
Their identity (read: authentication, as well as basic profile information), friends, and privacy controls can be carried to and leveraged by other Websites, and in turn, it will allow those other properties to feed off the Facebook engine.
The Times story indicates that among those signing up to use the service include Digg, Discovery Channel, the San Francisco Chronicle, online video star Hulu, among others.
Though this is clearly intended to make the very popular social networking site even more social, it also seems clearly intended to identify more logical ways to monetize the Facebook juggernaut.
Advertisers haven't exactly flocked to Facebook in droves, and a recent IDC study observed that only 57 percent of users of social networks clicked on an ad in a social networking site over the past year.
By taking the Facebook profile data into other sites, Facebook is essentially opening the aperture of its ad sales opportunity.
But they're also running the risk of another privacy bungle, one not unlike the original outcry among college students when Facebook introduced the now incredibly popular NewsFeed feature, and more recently its Beacon advertising system.
For my money, education and a slow and steady approach wins this race.
Facebook needs to educate the market and its user base about the opportunity Connect presents to each constituency, one for selling advertising, and the other for enriching the Facebook experience.
By demonstrating how Facebook Connect can enhance the consumer FB experience beyond the site, Facebook can ease concerns about the use (or misuse) of their profile information, much as they smoothed over the initial concerns expressed about NewsFeed -- a feature which many would now consider to be the key feature that distinguishes the Facebook experience (I would be one among them).
Based on my reading of the Times story, the slow and steady approach seems to be the one that Facebook has adopted, remembering that friends in one's social graph are made one click at a time.