Google’s Social Circles give it Acquisition Options

July 15, 2010 Lou Franco

A couple of days ago, I wrote about the social circles concept that a UX Researcher at Google is evangelizing. Here is the social circles presentation. The important part starts on Slide 47:

People don’t have one group of friends.

Making people create one big friends group has many of the same problems as planning seating arrangements at your wedding. […] Anyone who is married and went through this will remember how stressful it is.

Yet that’s what is happening online! Everyone being shoved into this big bucket. People don’t have one group of friends. Offline, people have multiple groups of friends that form around life stages and shared experiences.

This is sort of a problem with Facebook for me. Right now, it’s mostly managed by maintaining a separate profile on LinkedIn for my professional network, which brings up another advantage Circles would give Google – the ability to acquire LinkedIn.

Right now, if Facebook announced that it acquired LinkedIn, I’d probably delete one of my profiles. There’s just no way I could imagine them doing it the way I’d want it done (total separation). On the other hand, not withstanding Google’s Buzz debacle, if they do a good job with Circles, then I could see them incorporating LinkedIn or other networks.

The other obvious option is Ning. In Ning, circles are the default, as it’s a way of creating niche social networks. If I belong to different networks on Ning, my friends in one don’t even know I’m in another, let alone what’s going on in the network. Each Ning network is a natural fit for Circles.

This gives Google some options for growing their networks fast, and in a way that doesn’t break privacy. Even better, it’s a strategy that Facebook won’t want to copy as a single network seems to be part of their DNA, so it gives Google a vector of innovation to differentiate itself from Facebook.

About the Author

Lou Franco

Lou is the former Vice President of Product Development at Atalasoft.

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