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Showcase: Diving Bikers. Using third party services
The Diving Bikers website is an example of extensive use of third party services.
- Flickr to host almost all images (Yahoo!)
- YouTube for the vids (Google)
- Facebook to allow comments and share posts
- Google maps to show the routes
- Google translate to offer instant machine translation in any language
- Google custom search to move heavy database queries to their server
- FeedBurner to send newsletters and Twitter messages (Google)
- Woopra to offer web analytics
- FlagCounter to give some statistical insight also to visitors
- Geonames providing location names from GPS coordinates.
But can't we provide an upload for the photos ourself or run a video player on our own server? Yes, we can and we did in the past, but let's sum up some of the advantages of using third party services:
Lots of folks use the built-in search that Flickr, YouTube and Facebook offer. If content is present there, it might turn up in those searches. The use of these kind of searches is heavily increasing. Also the regular search engines give more importance to the content found on the sites of the big ones. Especially with image or video searches, our content is more likely to be found. Of course it's important to provide backlinks to our website as much as these services allow us (mostly on the user profile page). We can also use usernames on the different services like yourwebsiteDOTcom, to hint the viewer where to go.
Faster page load and less server strain
A post with text, images and a video grabs the content contemporary from three different servers. Obviously this results in a faster page load than if all content comes from one server only. It also depends on the connection on the client side, but our server can handle a lot more visitors this way.
Sending newsletters from your own server should be throttled to avoid the hosting company getting upset if we have a lot of subscribers. Using the powerful servers of Google for this through their FeedBurner email service is one worry less and it's free.
The same is true for the custom Google search. Database queries are CPU intensive, so why not let them be performed on Google's servers. If we want to keep the cost of our hosting low but offering multimedia content to significent visitor numbers, using third party services is the only feasible option. Google offers many other interesting web elements. Some integrate with the excellent Google docs service.
No copyright issues
Even if images show on your website, if they are hosted elsewhere there's no copy to base copyright infringement on (read more).
The client might already be aquainted with Flickr or YouTube. At least they learn to work with an interface they can use for their private use as well.
They might have already a large network of friends on Facebook that is can be an important group of initial website visitors.
No comment spam
The visitors that are logged in on Facebook already see their own picture and name in the comment submit box. They recognize and trust this, knowing there is no need to login. It's far more likely to have comments than with the traditional comment box. Besides, it reduces spam. Facebook offers in their widget also commenting with a Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account, so almost nobody is excluded. If Facebook visitors start to Like, Share or comment on content, it can result in an amount of FB visitors outnumbering the search engine entries.
Our fellows have little time while biking and diving each day. Besides the regular blog posts they certainly don't want to write newsletters as well. Redirecting the sites regular feed to the FeedBurner service:
- shows us how many people subscribed to our feed, newsletters and Twitters
- generates and sends email newsletters from new posts automatically, again without any strain for our server
- generates Twitter messages from new posts automatically with the title and a shortened link.
Visitors of travel trip website expect to be able to follow it, whether subscribing to a feed, newsletter or a Twitter channel. Being able to offer it "maintenance free" gives our travellers more time to enjoy their trip and make nice photos.
Guaranteed authenticity and greater reliability
- Photos from Flickr are traceable to the original photographer. It's unlikely that a Flickr account that is used by the website contains material that infringes copyright, risking account deletion.
- Comments from a Facebook user are more likely to be posted by a "real" person, instead of being spam or written by a sockpuppet.
- Signing up for the newsletter through a Google service (Feedburner) gives a more "solid" impression. Subscribers rely more on the fact they won't be spammed and can unsubscribe at any time. They have a third party to send a complain to if that's not the case.
- Statistic data (visitor numbers and pageviews) is surely considered more reliable if provided by a third party (FlagCounter).
Use only the third party services you need. Useless to setup a forum if you don't have the visitor numbers for it. In many cases we think the use of third party services is the way to go.