Katango pokes a hole in Google+ Circles

Ronny Kerr · July 12, 2011 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/1c9f

Facebook already has friend lists, but Katango automatically creates those groups for you

Maybe you’ve heard of a little venture capital firm called Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers? Maybe you remember that, back in October 2010, the firm created a little $250 million sFund designed specifically to back startups developing social apps for the Facebook platform? Maybe you can even recall that the very first startup to receive any money from the sFund, Cafebots, would not let out a peep about what it was working on, except for this little phrase: “Friend Relationship Management.”

A week after Facebook announced video chat and other chat upgrades to its platform, today’s news might be the next biggest for the social networking war brewing between Facebook and Google+.

Katango, the new Cafebots, emerged from stealth on Monday evening as a way of automatically organizing Facebook contacts.

Download the app on your iPhone, enter your Facebook login, wait a few moments and that’s it: five automatically generated groups of your friend circles. (Actually, the number depends on how your friend groups look and how good a job the algorithm does of seeing those groupings. While Katango made me five groups, a friend of mine got 13.)

As with any algorithm trying to understand complex human interactions, there will always be errors. That said, Katango does an astoundingly good job of matching people together from different points in your life. Maybe there will be one group for high school friends, one for college friends, one for family and so on.

Naturally, you can create your own groups, edit automatically-generated groups and message entire groups all at once. Functionality beyond that is pretty limited so far, but the implications of this are potent: imagine being able to network with everybody on Facebook, not just close friends, and only sharing certain things with certain people.

The timing of Katango’s launch is startling because, on one hand, we’ve been waiting to see this service for about eight months, and on the other hand, a small but growing set of Web users are already showing eagerness in trying their hand at Google’s newest social network. What’s interesting about that is that one of the central strengths in Google+ is Circles, a feature by which users can group their friends, acquaintances, colleagues, whomever.

When reading how Katango groups Google in with the old guard, like Yahoo, things start to sound even more interesting:

“If you look at the history of sorting through content on the web, Yahoo originally manually curated content, until it became too complex, and Google developed a system to index and sort using algorithms,” said Yoav Shoham, Co-Founder and Chairman of Katango. “What Google did for the Web, we’re aiming to do for social, using the right algorithm to sift through the massive exploson [sic] of real time people data so users don’t have to do it by hand.“

If users adopt Katango in considerable numbers, the excitement over Google+ and its circles could drag slower or even dissolve completely. The 750 million members on Facebook probably aren’t too excited about jumping to another social network just because some of the geeky among us are, especially if Facebook matches all the best aspects of Google+.

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