False Alarm: Google Circles Not Coming Now–and Probably Not Ever
After a report emerged this morning of a new social network focused on nuanced sharing called Google Circles, the company said it was not launching anything this week at the high-profile South by Southwest Interactive event in Austin, Texas.
Moreover, such a product is not even under development, according to the people supposedly developing it.
Google’s Chris Messina, who had been pegged as one of the leaders of Circles, told me today in an interview that he “didn’t know what [the story] was talking about.”
He and others from Google, speaking with NetworkEffect at a Google developer event in Austin, said the company is not launching its own social network.
As in: Not today, and not anytime soon. (Messina is pictured here in the T-shirt he is actually wearing today, which says “I’m Feeling Social.”)
While the search giant is thinking about how to better understand the subtleties of social relationships and may build such functionality into its various products as it makes them more social, said Messina and others, Circles is not a product currently in development.
Tim O’Reilly, the well-known technology pundit, had seemingly confirmed the existence of Circles by tweeting “I’ve seen google circles, and it looks awesome,” after ReadWriteWeb published a description this morning.
O’Reilly later deleted the tweet and clarified to NetworkEffect via email:
“It’s not a product, per se, and it’s not a new social network. Just some research-y thinking about how you could better manage social data. Exactly what Chris said. I got fooled by the RWW story into thinking that they’d turned it into something they were going to announce. There’s no story here. Just some labs stuff.”
After the ReadWriteWeb report came out, Google rebutted its claims: “We’re not launching any products at SXSW.”
But the comment seemed to be about the timing of such a launch, not the product itself. And with so much anticipation around whatever Google does in social, a non-denial seemed almost confirmation.
Nonetheless, judging by comments on stories about Circles, there seems to be latent positive interest in such a product.
Still, Messina, in fact, is not on any Google product team. He is a developer advocate on the developer relations team. He does advise Google’s social products team on various open Web issues.
Meanwhile, his reported Circles collaborator, Jonathan Sposato, is a product manager on the Picasa team, following the acquisition of his company Picnik last year. He is involved in some collaboration between Google’s profiles and photos teams, but is not himself on the social product team, said a spokesperson for Google.
In other words: Facebook can relax for today.