There is no such thing as Circles, the Google social network that ReadWriteWeb reported on yesterday.That’s what Google told AllThingsD reporter Liz Gannes a few hours after the ReadWriteWeb story “broke.”
One of the people supposedly working on Circles, Chris Messina, said he didn’t even know what the story was talking about. In fact, Messina is not a member of any product group — he’s a developer evangelist, and promotes Google technologies to the developer community. That’s what he’s doing at SXSW — not preparing to launch a new Facebook-killer.
The confusion was heightened by a tweet from publisher Tim O’Reilly, who said that he’d seen Circles and called it “awesome” and “only the tip of the iceberg.” But later, O’Reilly clarified that he was talking about some research he’d seen long ago.
The story fooled a lot of people because Google has launched or been rumoured to be launching so many social products over the last year. There was Wave, Google’s ill-fated collaboration and real-time communication platform. There’s Buzz, the social-updates service integrated into Gmail, which nobody seems to use. Product VP Vic Gundotra is supposedly working on something, perhaps called Me or +1 or Loop. So is Max Levchin, who came to Google in the acquisition of Slide last year.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. So what the heck is Google working on?
It’s easy to imagine some examples:
- Search results — and search ads — could be tailored partly on who you know and what they’ve been searching for and clicking on.
- Gmail Priority Inbox could get more accurate by looking at your activities outside of Gmail — for instance, if you’re often commenting on videos that a particular YouTube user posts, you will probably be OK getting an email from that person.
- The Android Marketplace could recommend apps based on what your friends and colleagues have downloaded and use regularly.
- The long-rumoured Google music service could let you share tunes and playlists with friends..
Whatever Google comes up with, it almost certainly won’t be a competitive social network that mimics Facebook. That ship has sailed — Facebook has 600 million users, and nobody’s going to join yet another social network to share photos and status updates with friends.