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Facebook Connect(ed) to MoveOn?

BY Chuck DeFeo | Friday, January 23 2009

Like an estimated 7.7 million people, I watched Barack Obama’s inauguration online. I chose to watch it on CNN.com and enjoyed the live feed of Facebook status updates coming through alongside the video. What interested me the most though was the one click button to use my Facebook profile to register with CNN.com Live.

The Obama campaign’s use of Facebook in 2008 has been well discussed and isn’t something I am going to cover here but what is worth discussing is the potential for Facebook’s latest (and potentially greatest) move in the race between Facebook, Google, and Yahoo to become the defacto registration database for the web. And for the last several months Facebook has been selectively beta testing Facebook Connect with some major and minor online players.

The concept of using the web and relational databases to connect people of common interest and geographic proximity is not new. Using this concept in politics is not new either – this functionality was woven throughout GeorgeWBush.com. Facebook has simply done it better. Just as Google wasn’t the first search engine on the web it was just the best. (Side note: being the first mover isn’t always an advantage.)

In an election environment that is extremely favorable to the Obama candidacy, the campaigns leveraging of Facebook to grow their activist base was well executed. Smart candidates go to where the people are – and Facebook is one of the largest gathering places on the web. Ending the campaign with 3.2 million Facebook “friends” is remarkable and will prove to be a lasting advantage as he governs.

The fact remains though that those 3.2 million “friends” are maintained in a database owned by Facebook and a campaign’s ability or now the DNC’s ability to fully integrate those 3.2 million people into offline and other online initiatives is limited. That is why Facebook Connect is so intriguing to me.

What seems to have gotten little notice in the Democrat’s online efforts is the potential role that MoveOn.org’s use of Facebook Connect -- beginning on September 26, 2008 -- may have had in their successful use of the world’s largest social network.

With one click my profile data was partially accessible on the websites of Facebook’s Connect beta sites. How much of that data is now accessible to the administrators of these web properties and their organizations? The individual user has given Facebook permission with one simple click the rights to pass that information on. And how much of this one click ability was used by MoveOn.org in the final five weeks of the campaign? Why was MoveOn.org the only political beta tester?

Facebook Connect represents the emerging of the distributed network that a lot of us have been waiting for. As noted above, the concept of social networking is not new to politics but the potential for it to truly impact the outcome of elections is finally taking shape. Facebook Connect may represent the next important moment for unlocking its potential. Or did that moment already happen and our friends at MoveOn.org just aren’t telling us about it?