Up until now, Facebook Connect has been the most popular way for websites to authenticate users quickly using an existing social account, but armed with launch partners such as The Fancy, Flixster, The Guardian, OpenTable, Shazam, TuneIn and USA Today, Google is hoping to derail that – in fact many of their key projects depend on it.

Google+ Sign-In, however, is more than simply authentication. Google+ Sign-In is a very different beast and, with it, there comes a range of repercussions that reverberate through the search, social and mobile communities.

Less social spam

Facebook currently allows apps to auto-publish a user’s activities such as achievements, statuses and invites to their friends and family. Google wants to take its service away from this practice by giving users more control over the content shared from websites.

To this end, Google+ Sign-In will give users the option of sharing their activity publicly or privately to their chosen Circles.

Instead of bombarding a user’s fan base with updates, Google+ Sign-In will allow users to specify which Circles they want a particular app or website to share to and exclude those they think won’t care about that particular app activity.

Google Plus Sign-In Mobile

Mobile Integration

One feature that may be a game-changer for Google is its potential for interaction with mobile, particularly Android devices

  • App promotion at sign-in.

When a user signs in via a web client with Google+ Sign-In, websites will now have the power to recognise if a user has an Android device and, if so, will ask them to automatically download the companion Android app, allowing for over-the-air updates without any further interaction required from the user.

There is data to suggest that consumer preference is strongly in favour of apps ahead of mobile sites, making this an immensely powerful marketing prospect for those who have invested in an enterprise mobile app experience.

Take a website such as Naked Wines: site integration with Google+ not only offers users a simple sign- in method but is also a great way of promoting their recently-reviewed mobile app to drive m-commerce transactions.

  • Interactive posts

Another feature, launched alongside Google+ Sign-In, introduced a new kind of share to the social network: Interactive Post. An extension of the convergence with the mobile market, Interactive Posts allow shares via an app or Google+-authenticated website.

This exposes a user’s connections to new “Review,” “Buy” or “Listen” buttons, which connect them to the website or app where the original sharing action took place, or to a marketplace where they can download the app that will let them complete those actions.

Data Galore

Just like authentication with Facebook Connect, Google+ Sign-In turns the exchange of information between user and brand into a two-way data highway, creating a new way for developers to connect the wider Google experience with their websites and applications.

By enabling Google+ Sign-In, brands are able to access virtually anything in the Google API, including a user’s full name, profile picture, Google+ ID, age range, language, people in their Circles, and any other information specifically requested by the app, and can even combine it with other Google APIs to enable access to additional Google services (Gmail, Calendar, YouTube etc.), though this will require a separate consent dialogue box.

Not provided

Google has suggested to the web community that automatic sign-in will accelerate online registration and conversion rates, increase engagement among website and app users, and give greater access to data regarding signed-in user activity. While this is great, it does come at a price.

As a user authenticates with a participating website, they are also signed into the Google search engine, giving them greater “privacy” in the form of [Not Provided].

Google Plus Sign-In Tweet

On the one hand Google+ Sign-In giveth – via improved data on signed-in users – and on the other they taketh away, ironically by limiting data on signed-in users and making it almost impossible to measure natural search via keywords.

Next step in the semantic web / author rank

The transition of Google+ from a social network to a user’s single portable identity has been coming for a while. With this level of data, your Google+ identity is now on the way to becoming a social layer applied over everything you do online.

This has been a key element missing from being able to use Agent Rank (now commonly known as AuthorRank) as a digital signature across the web, and, combined with other semantic features such as the Knowledge Graph, is a huge indicator from Google that author rank is not a myth, instead it is likely to become more and more of a reality within the search industry.

I asked Google patent blogger Bill Slawski about this theory, and got this response:

Of course, it’s possible that Google might decide to use a different approach than one described in a patent that’s more than 7 years old at this stage [but] Google has published a couple of continuation versions of the Agent Rank patent that seem focused on both how portable digital signatures might be (used in different places on the Web), and on differing values of endorsements for reputation score of authors based upon a reputation score for an endorser.

If publishers and authors want their content to be displayed in Google search results in the future, whether at the original source or a syndicated source, Google + membership might be a really good idea.”

What do you think? Will you be implementing Google+ Sign-In? How do you see this authentication method changing the digital landscape?