Web publishers are constantly looking to increase traffic, usability, and interaction with their sites. The new Facebook Connect allows for Facebook users to simply click a button to be able to comment on a site, or interact with the site. This sounds like a great idea up front. Take an extremely popular social network with millions of users and hook that into your site and the possibilities are endless.
Publishers need to be careful though. While the thought of adding millions of users to a site may seem good, there is a major downside to Facebook Connect that a local user system does not have. Anonymity.
Lots of people use sites for fun, while using Facebook to connect with real people that they know and interact with daily. They like the idea of having a separate entity where they don’t have to mix the two. Forcing users to sign into your site and comment with their Facebook profile may, and likely will, turn some users off. This could result in losing a solid user base, and driving away your power users as they fish for new sites that provide an anonymous shell.
Take CNN for example. They recently integrated with Facebook Connect replacing their old comment system. Lots of heated political discussions take place on their stories, with lots of very opinionated users. Being anonymous helps a person deliver their true opinion, rather than the watered down one they share with people face to face. Can you fathom getting in a heated argument face to face with someone on how you feel about illegal immigration or health care? Not just talking about it, but a borderline argument? Most likely not. With Facebook Connect on CNN you open yourself up to doing just that, which could damage someone’s real reputation because of an opinion.
Lets take this one step further. A trend in hiring new employees in the past few years has been to Google them, or even check out their profiles on Facebook. If a potential employer is able to search for comments you have made on sites with Facebook Connect integrated, that could potentially harm your chances of being hired.
So publishers, keep in mind, that while Facebook Connect seems like a great idea up front, the loss of anonymity may diminish your user base in the long run. The thought of sharing opinions and information, passed along with a link into their social life may scare users away.