In Facebook's non-stop push to dominate the world by making its service the social fabric of the web, it has courted developers and publishers with a platform and suite of tools.
Most of these tools give developers and publishers the ability to tap into Facebook's vast audience and its social graph, which is attractive for obvious reasons. In return, Facebook's footprint on the web grows as users are exposed to its functionality almost everywhere they go.
Yesterday, Facebook released a new registration tool for publishers designed to "[minimize] the friction associated with signing up for a new account and making it easy for people to bring their friends with them." According to the company, this results in higher conversions, stickier sites, more engagement and increased repeat traffic.
So is the new registration tool a good option for publishers? That depends. Here are the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Facebook's new registration tool gives publishers an easy way to incorporate the site into their registration process. In theory, this could indeed minimize sign-up friction. If a user is logged in to Facebook when he or she hits a registration form using the registration tool, "the form is prefilled with the relevant information he or she has already shared on their Facebook profile."Publishers can also request access to certain information the user has stored on the site, eliminating the need for new registrants to provide information that they've already given, and they can also create their own custom fields.
For publishers whose audiences are filled with Facebook users, Facebook's registration tool may not only increase conversions, it could help with data accuracy. After all, the data that they can pull from existing Facebook profiles will likely be, in many cases, more complete and accurate than data the user would provide anew on his or her own.
Decreasing registration friction is a good thing, but outsourcing registration to Facebook is, in many ways, a very unappealing proposition beyond the technical considerations. Even though Facebook's growth and an individual publisher's success aren't mutually exclusive, one has to question the wisdom in allowing it to 'own' a huge piece of the user relationship. After all, this isn't just about user registration; it's about how the user interacts with your site beyond registration because Facebook naturally wants to sit between publishers and their users when it comes to authentication as well.
The question publishers need to ask themselves: is letting Facebook come between us and our users the only way we can decrease registration friction, or are there other things we can do to increase the perceived value in our service so that we don't have to?