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We’re at the point that when either of the two social networking giants, MySpace and Facebook, does something, the other has to respond. Yesterday, MySpace unveiled its “Data Availability” initiative, allowing other sites around the Internet to utilize its users’ data to update profiles, photos, videos and other attributes. Today, according to a TechCrunch scoop, Facebook is following that up with “Facebook Connect”. Which does, wait for it — the exact same thing.

As Mike Arrington points out, Facebook Connect is basically an updated version of Facebook’s API for third party sites. These sites will now be able to use Facebook’s trusted identification methods, profile information (including pictures, videos, events and the like), friend lists and privacy settings. Just as with MySpace’s announcement, the idea is to make Facebook a central hub of users’ web experience.

Lest you think this wasn’t a game of one-upmanship: whereas MySpace announced Twitter as a launch partner for its initiative yesterday, Facebook is launching with Digg as a partner. The social news voting site is quite a bit larger than the micro-messaging Twitter.

Facebook Connect’s formal launch won’t happen for a couple of weeks. We’ll update when we know more.

update: Dave Morin, Facebook’s senior platform manager has posted on the Facebook Developers Blog with more details about Facebook Connect. Some of the details:

Today we are announcing Facebook Connect. Facebook Connect is the next iteration of Facebook Platform that allows users to “connect” their Facebook identity, friends and privacy to any site. This will now enable third party websites to implement and offer even more features of Facebook Platform off of Facebook – similar to features available to third party applications today on Facebook.

Here are just a few of the coming features of Facebook Connect:

Trusted Authentication
Users will be able to connect their Facebook account with any partner website using a trusted authentication method. Whether at login, or anywhere else a developer would like to add social context, the user will be able to authenticate and connect their account in a trusted environment. The user will have total control of the permissions granted.

Real Identity
Facebook users represent themselves with their real names and real identities. With Facebook Connect, users can bring their real identity information with them wherever they go on the Web, including: basic profile information, profile picture, name, friends, photos, events, groups, and more.

Friends Access
Users count on Facebook to stay connected to their friends and family. With Facebook Connect, users can take their friends with them wherever they go on the Web. Developers will be able to add rich social context to their websites. Developers will even be able to dynamically show which of their Facebook friends already have accounts on their sites.

Dynamic Privacy
As a user moves around the open Web, their privacy settings will follow, ensuring that users’ information and privacy rules are always up-to-date. For example, if a user changes their profile picture, or removes a friend connection, this will be automatically updated in the external website.

[photo: flickr/masochismtango]

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