Looks like Google will finally launch its long-awaited social networking play tonight. How does it announce such a thing? By announcing ... that it will soon make an announcement:

Tonight at Campfire One at the Googleplex, Google will announce a preview release of Google Friend Connect, a service that helps Web site owners grow traffic by enabling any site on the web to easily provide social features for its visitors.

Web sites that are not social networks may still want to be social -- and now they can be, easily. With Google Friend Connect (see the site following this evening's Campfire One), any Web site owner can add a snippet of code to his or her site and get social features up and running immediately without programming -- picking and choosing from built-in functionality like user registration, invitations, members gallery, message posting, and reviews, as well as third-party applications built by the OpenSocial developer community.

Visitors to any site using Google Friend Connect will be able to see, invite, and interact with new friends, or, using secure authorization APIs, with existing friends from social sites on the web, including Facebook, Google Talk, hi5, orkut, Plaxo, and more.

Google Friend Connect has been developed to lower two barriers to the spread of social features across the web. First, many Web site owners want to add features that enable their visitors to do things with their friends, but the technology and resource hurdles have been too high. Second, people are tiring of needing to create new logins and profiles and recreate their friends lists wherever they go on the web. Google Friend Connect offers a solution to both these issues.

Unclear on how this is going to work? You're not alone. Fortunately, Google provides this image, which clears things up nicely:

OK, maybe not. :)