Google Circles: It's (probably not) Coming

Update: The most recent word from AllThingsD is that the product does not exist in any form other than in the lab. Google is saying there is no product to launch tonight or any night soon. With Google, it’s hard to tell what’s fact and what’s a smokescreen – if the product is real and not ready for primetime, it is unlikely that Google would want it known before it arrives. They have simply been burnt too many times by the hype machine and their most successful launches have simply “happened” without anticipation or rumor.

There has been much speculation about Google’s next entry into the social web and little doubt that we would see something from them this year. It appears that it will come in the form of a product known as Google Circles and news about it may be available as soon as today.

Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb heard from sources while attending SXSW that Google may make some form of an announcement or offer a sneak peek at tonight’s ACLU event. This would be fitting considering the ACLU’s stance on online privacy particularly in social networks, but Liz Gannes at AllThingsD wrote that Google said “unequivocally that no such service is launching at SXSW today.”

Our hopes are with Kirkpatrick but we’re betting on Gannes’ report.

Regardless, it’s likely real based upon months of circumstantial evidence and a Twitter exchange between Tim O’Reilly and Steve Case that Circles is indeed real and will be unveiled in the near future.

Kirkpatrick’s speculative analysis includes some key points about what Circles will likely be.

  • Status, photo, and video sharing
  • Better grouping of contacts
  • Easier control over who gets to see what when a user a posts
  • Adherence to privacy standards that Twitter and Facebook have missed
  • Developed and/or envisioned by key players in the history of the social web, including Jonathan Sposato, CEO of the photo editing service Piknik that Google acquired last year, and Chris Messina, social media “visionary”

Google has had very little success after several attempts at breaking into the social arena. YouTube is the one shining example on their resume, but Buzz, Wave, Orkut, and others have seen lukewarm success at best. This has been a major sore spot for Google, especially considering that they consider Facebook a key competitor.

We’ll update as soon as more news is available.

Written by Rocco Penn

A tech blogger, social media analyst, and general promoter of all things positive in the world. "Bring it. I'm ready." Find me on Media Caffeine, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
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