Facebook announced Thursday that it’s making some tweaks to its social log-in service, Facebook Login, which the company said is now used 850 million times per month.
The service lets users sign in to services with the same e-mail addresses and passwords they use to log into the social network itself — a built-in set of security credentials that makes it easier for users to sign up for new services.
But Facebook said Thursday that it is currently rolling out a new update that will address some user concerns that using their Facebook log-in information also meant agreeing to let outside services post things to their personal profiles. With a new update, Facebook is asking developers to separate sharing requests from Facebook Login. So users can, say, sign up for a music service without worrying that all of their Facebook contacts will see they’ve listened to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” 17 times in the past week.
With its increased focus on social log-in, Facebook is making a play for being not only a social network, but also an online identity provider, an area that other firms such as Google and Twitter are also pursuing. There’s little doubt that logging in with social networking credentials sign-up faster, since a user doesn’t have to think up a new password. Facebook, with this update, appears to be knocking down an obstacle that keeps users from choosing this option, namely fears of inadvertent oversharing.
Facebook has also bumped up the speed of the log-in service, saying that it will make loading up Facebook Login 31 percent faster than it had been in the past.
Last week, the company confirmed that it is testing another aspect of online identity services: processing payments through its network.
It’s a smart move for the company, said Patrick Salyer, the chief executive of Gigya — a social login firm that works with clients including Facebook and Google.
“Facebook has a lot of advantages coming into this, they are the primary identity provider on the Web in terms of market share,” he said. “The reason for that is sites are choosing them as a primary authentication provider is because they’re personalizing the experience on sites.”
The obstacle for Facebook as it looks to expand to commerce, Salyer said, will be encouraging users to share their payment information with the social network to become effective as a payment processor. Google, for example, already has payment information through its Wallet service and the Google Play store.
Down the line, Salyer said, he expects the line to blur between payment processors and companies that provide online identity services.
“Whoever owns identity or leads identity on the Web will be valuable — not only because you remain relevant, but also because identity can be tied to all sorts of information. It’s one of the more lucrative spaces to be in,” he said.
(Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook's board of directors.)
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