Earlier this year reports of a new social service from Google called Circles emerged. Circles would supposedly allow users to share photos, videos and messages to user-defined social groups (or ‘circles’) rather than having to post everything to everyone. Google is yet to actually confirm Circles, but it may have been hiding in plain sight – right in the code for Google’s user profiles pages.

Austrian blogger Florian Rohrweck was searching though Google Profiles code last week when he stumbled upon not just mentions of Circles but indications that the much-criticised Buzz will survive whatever plans Google has for social sharing.

Google Circles?

The code Rohrweck found, by inspecting the Javascript at profiles.google.com, included text saying “Show people who have added you to circles”, a reference to “Have you in circles” (presumably to accompany a list of other users who have added you to their own ‘circles’, “public followers” and “private contacts”.

This text indicates that Circles is indeed a way of organising your contacts, in a similar way to Lists in Twitter and Facebook. Unfortunately, when we checked the code today, we found no reference to Circles. However, Rohrweck sent us the Javascript he says he saved when he found it, and there’s definitely mentions of Circles in there.

circles code1 Google code could have been hiding Google Circles, +1 buttons for Buzz and more

Buzz and Orkut to get +1

After the initial hype surrounding its launch in February 2010, the novelty around Google’s Buzz social product quickly died and  it’s often cited as one of Google’s biggest failures. However, it seems the service is still being actively developed as more code found by Rohrweck (which is still in place) appears to indicate that +1 buttons will be coming to Buzz.

Screen shot 2011 06 19 at 01.16.35 Google code could have been hiding Google Circles, +1 buttons for Buzz and more

Yes, it seems that the +1 buttons that Google recently introduced to help users influence the search results their friends receive will be added to Buzz, allowing users to “Plus One” comments. Unlike the Circles code mentioned above, this code is still very much in place.

It seems from the code that Buzz will be more tightly integrated with Google Profiles, allowing users to post Buzzes directly from their profile, presumably into one of their ‘Circles’ of contacts. It’s worth noting that Buzz already allows you to post to specific groups of people, as defined by groups in your Gmail contacts list. So, Circles may just be a way of grouping people together that is more clearly demarked as ‘social’ as opposed to Groups in your Contact list, which you may not tie in with groups you want to share particular content with.

Other bits and pieces found in Google code

Other interesting tidbits found by Rohrweck include:

  • Orkut, Google’s “Big in Brazil” social network which shows no signs of taking on Facebook anywhere else soon, looks set to allow users to share the list of sites that they’ve ‘+1’ed, just as is currently available on your Google Profile.
  • The Google Profile code suggests that Google Talk may soon be available as an option in the top navigation alongside properties like Gmail, Documents and Reader. At present, Google Talk is only available on the Web as a sidebar widget in Gmail.
  • Rohrweck says he found reference to something called Google Typhoon in the Gmail code. We can’t find that ourselves, and Typhoon sounds like a codename for… something. It could be an already existing product that was called Typhoon when in development or something new.

What does this tell us?

Taking an overview of all this and applying a little informed guesswork, it appears that Google Profiles are set to become something of a social hub for the Google experience, more closely hooked into Buzz, with Circles providing a way to target exactly who receives which content you share.

Of course, this is all guesswork based on observations in code which may be changed before anything comes of it but it certainly provides an interesting insight into what might be in the works amongst Google engineers.