Yesterday Meebo announced XAuth along with Google, Microsoft, MySpace, Yahoo!, Disqus, Gigya and JanRain. The goal of XAuth is to make it easy to know which services a given user cares about and then to reduce the friction in connecting that user to those services.
The media made a lot of hay over the fact that Facebook wasn’t part of the announcement. Many (though not all) cast XAuth as the rest of the industry versus Facebook. That was not the intent (nor was it part of our media briefings). Rather, here’s why XAuth mattered enough to Meebo to push the industry to adopt it as a standard:
Meebo has been connecting users to various social services since 2005. One of our early learnings was that users have different types of content they talk about and share on each type of social service. Think about the type of content you personally put over a social network versus IM versus email versus Twitter. For most people, all of these styles of communication are relevant, but what you put over each network differs. In addition, for each style of communication, there are multiple players. The decision tree gets complicated pretty quickly. XAuth attempts to solve this problem by signaling which services a user actively cares about so those services can be readily available to the user as they browse the web.
So is XAuth competitive to Facebook? Nope – it doesn’t seek to replace what Facebook does today – rather, the goal is greater efficiency for publishers and a more relevant experience for users. Here are some specifics:
1. XAuth does *not* replace Facebook Connect, or anyone else’s external APIs, for that matter. Rather, XAuth is a way to know which of these connection choices to put in front of the user. Once XAuth does its thing, the connection happens via existing APIs, like Facebook Connect or Google’s APIs.
2. Facebook already has a way to ping their servers and ask if a given user is connected to Facebook (what XAuth enables). Since Facebook is not currently part of XAuth, this means that Meebo’s Bar (or other services) needs to look up whether a user is connected to a given set of services in *two* places — Facebook’s servers and XAuth’s. Were Facebook to be part of XAuth, this could be accomplished in *one* ping. No difference in user experience, but better performance for the website.
3. Prior to the XAuth announcement, we ran it by folks at Facebook and had a good technical conversation with them. XAuth came together quickly and Facebook was likely just a little busy with planning for f8. I obviously can’t speak on Facebook’s behalf here, but hope they’ll become involved.
4. Given how large Facebook is, were they to be part of XAuth, they’d frequently show up in the list of services a user cares about anyhow.
XAuth solves a really simple problem that’s been around for a while — how to help connect users to the services they care about most. From a selfish Meebo point of view, it also pushes all of the various services to make their networks easier to work with, as Facebook has done with their own. My hope is that XAuth, in the end, lets users more easily connect with all their friends as they travel around the web.