Google+, which is the ad giant's "network thingy", can now be used to sign into third-party apps, the company confirmed today.
It works a lot like Facebook Connect. Google said that developers building apps for Android, iOS or the web can now allow users to sign in via Google+.
"It’s simple, it’s secure, and it prohibits social spam. And we’re just getting started," said Google product director Seth Sternberg in a blog post.
Google has struggled in the past to explain exactly what Google+ is. It has also rejected the social network tag and has even previously jettisoned the description of Goog+ as a "platform", preferring instead to say that it's a "destination" website.
At the same time Mountain View has been slotting Google+ into many parts of the company's estate, forcing Google account holders to have a presence on the site if they want to subscribe to other google products such as YouTube or webmail offering Gmail, for example.
As for how the sign-in function compares with Facebook Connect, Sternberg couldn't resist bitching about the competition. He said:
Sometimes you want to share something with the world (like a high score), but other times you want to keep things to yourself (like fitness goals). With Google+ Sign-In and circles you decide who to share with, if at all.
In addition: 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).
"Frictionless sharing" is something that Mark Zuckerberg has spoken about at length and indeed Facebook was rebuilt around this concept with the pre-IPO debut of Timeline - a transparent effort to pump more ad juice into its user data in a bid to please Wall Street.
On security, Sternberg said of the Google+ sign-in option for third-party apps:
If you sign in to Gmail, YouTube or any other Google service, you can now use your existing credentials to sign in to apps outside of Google. Just review the Google+ permissions screen (outlining the data you're sharing with the app, and the people who can see your activity), and you're all set.
Google+ Sign-In also comes with the protections and safeguards you’ve come to expect from your Google account (like 2-step verification), so you can always sign in with confidence.
Google+ - in essence a user-profiling system which relies on its users provision of their true identity credentials - will soon become part of the Google Play service, which was previously the chaotic Android Marketplace.
Meanwhile, those wishing to manage their signed-in apps via Google+ can't do so at the moment as the plus.google.com/apps webpage is currently displaying a 404 error. We're confident Google will fix this soon.
Google has claimed that as of December last year, 135 million users were "actively" using Google+. ®