On its developers blog yesterday, Google announced that it's introducing a new sign-in feature for Google+ users. Considering that the majority of us have a Gmail, YouTube or Google+ account and are regularly logged into one, it makes a lot of sense for Google to create its own sign-in service.
For one, incorporating such a service will make your feed that little bit busier as your friends and followers see what apps you're using. It also makes it more vibrant as the news stream resembles Facebook more, being an activity feed rather than just a place to see what your friends are doing.
Whatever your opinion is on Google+, it is a site that you should pay attention to, if only for its SEO and search engine potential if nothing else. Although, with Facebook and Twitter having their own sign-in features for a while now, what reason would app developers and programmers have to incorporate it into their app or service?
The Case For
If you're talking about the reasons why you should use Google, then you need to look at the stats. For one, while you sign in to any Google account, really you're signing in with Google+ as they're now one and the same. But while it has been accused of being a ghost town during the first few months of its existence, it looks like it's really beginning to gather momentum.
The stats surrounding Google+ itself should help. When it announced communities back in December 2012, the Senior VP Vic Gundortra wrote in a blog post that more than 500 million people had upgraded to Google+, 235 million are active across Google - that is, +1'ing apps, using Gmail, connecting with friends in search, etc.) and 135 million are active in the Google+ stream.
It's also the fastest growing social media site at the moment - although that's mainly because so many people use Google products that upgrading was mandatory - but it is being used and there is a growing community slowly emerging from it. It's still a long way from challenging Facebook and Twitter, but it's increasing to the point that even casual users are beginning to warm to it.
The real strength is when you consider the number of people that use other Google products like Gmail, Android and YouTube. Google has created an ecosystem where users refer to it for a wide number of things. Creating documents, saving onto the cloud, watching videos, checking mail, planning journeys, checking the news.
It has become ingrained into our online lives to the point where it's hard to imagine not having all this information easily available to us. Depending on your app, you can make it context sensitive such as incorporating your YouTube viewing history when you're logging in, but for now it looks like it's limited only to Google+.
However, going back to Google+ itself, the 135 million active in its stream is important to note as it shows that there is traction behind the site, which is what app and site developers are going to be looking at when they're considering it.
Also, the ability to automatically install the app version of a site you've signed into will be handy for those trying to grow their mobile presence, something that is now essential for all businesses to get ahead
The Case Against
The reason why this method is so popular with apps and sites is because information is power. The more information you can extract from a user, the more you have to work with when you're developing a product or service. When a site asks you to sign up, they're really looking for as much information about you such as email addresses, names, gender and age, but other important information such as demographics and geographical locations play a part in it too.
Facebook sign-in is popular because these sites gain access to all this information that you've already provided. All those details you've spent time entering into the 'about' section comes into play here and because we're always signed in, a process that usually takes five-ten minutes is reduced to a single click. The price of convenience is that both Facebook and the app you're signing into learns more about you and your consumption habits, giving them more power in the process.
The immediate problem facing Google+ is that while people are engaging with it, more than half just upgraded and did nothing more. Also, outside the 135 million active users, how many of these people have filled out their 'About' pages? Since they've already filled out their Facebook profile among others, why would they feel the need to fill out the same information again.
Also, a smaller problem, but worth considering, is that people may sign in with Google because there's less information on it and therefore they're revealing less. Of course, the sign-in process is similar to Facebook's, notifying you of what information they're accessing before you click the 'Accept' button. If this does come to pass, it's not going to be much use to app developers who thrive on this information, or for Google.
The reason that this mightn't be as big a problem is because Google already has a number of services to gather data from so if you haven't placed it in the 'About' page, they can still get that information from places like Gmail and YouTube.
Is it Worth Using?
If you're already integrating Facebook sign-in, then there's no harm in including Google's version too. It's definitely a case that more people are using more Google products than just search and when you add the different services together, that's a lot of information they're sitting on. The problem is that these plugins live or die by how much third-parties sites can get out of it so if you limit it, sites and apps won't include it and if you open the floodgates, users will be reluctant to use it. Google has wisely chosen to go for the former, which could be a problem in the short-term at least.
If it's a case you can only access information from Google+ (which seems to be the likely scenario), then the use could be handy for users, but limited for apps who thrive upon this information. If it's a case that you can incorporate more than one sign-in option, then by all means include it, but if you have to choose only one, then sites may lean towards Facebook's version since it's already well established. If you're looking to improve your mobile presence, then Google's version becomes more tempting.
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