MOUNTAIN VIEW, California: Google has unveiled a preview of Friend Connect, a way to add social features to websites without programming knowhow.

The service will enable any site, however niche or obscure, to allow visitors to meet and connect with 'friends' who visit that site. It will also enable users to access personal profiles they have built on other social networks, such as Facebook.
The service, still in a limited beta version, follows pledges by MySpace and Facebook last week to allow users to transport their profiles and applications to other sites.

Declares Google engineering director David Glazer: "We're in the middle of a huge change. Wherever people go on the web, they want to have their friends with them, and this makes it possible."

Although the search giant will not make money directly from the service, it is playing a longer game.

Glazer says the company benefits when "the web is healthy", in other words, the more people online, the more people see the advertising Google runs and which is its principle source of revenue.

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK); additional content by WARC staff