Facebook engineers bring Google+ Circles to Facebook

Facebook engineers bring Google+ Circles to Facebook

Summary: Four Facebook engineers have built Circle Hack, which lets you build friend lists on Facebook exactly how you build Circles on Google+.

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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. While Google+ has been criticized for being a clone of Facebook, it implements a few features better than its counterpart. A team of Facebook engineers have ported one such Google+ feature, called Circles, to Facebook.

Facebook engineers Vladimir Kolesnikov, Peng Fan, Zahan Malkani, and Brian Rosenthal wanted to be able to organize their Facebook friends in the same way you can organize them using Google+. Since it took a bit of hacking, the team of four has called it Circle Hack and described it as "A one-night experiment with JavaScript (not affiliated with Facebook)." I first heard about Circle Hack via a message from Facebook Platform Partner Engineer Simon Cross on Twitter:

Interesting that people think Google+Circles is new - seen Facebook Friend lists? This makes a good point: http://t.co/flxYts4

Google+ allows you to organize your friends in customized Circles, like friends, family, or colleagues. You can then control the privacy settings for each Circle and share content only in that Circle. To include a person in a particular Circle, you simply drag their picture into the appropriate category.

You can organize your friends on Facebook as well with a feature called Lists. Setting up a list is much more complicated on Facebook, however, than setting up a Circle is on Google+. First, you have to click on the Account menu in the top right-hand corner, select Edit Friends, and then click Create a List.

From there, you have to go through multiple steps to organize your friends into customized Lists, including typing in names individually and selecting friends one by one, all in a small little window. Google+ and Circle Hack have a much easier drag-and-drop format.

Like Circles, the Circle Hack webpage is divided into two parts. At the top, you have all your Facebook friends represented by their name and profile picture in a contact card format. At the bottom, you have an area for creating new Circles/Lists. Each section has its own scroll bar, and you can resize each one by clicking on the dividing line between the two areas. All you have to do is select friends at the top and drag them to the bottom.

Circle Hack requires that you log in to your Facebook account and authorize the site just like you would any other Facebook application. Once you have a circle organized, you can click on the "Create list" link that appears in the center of your new circle to name it. The next time you open Facebook, you'll see the newly created list as an option in your Friends section and in your privacy settings.

Unfortunately, while Circle Hack lets you remove everyone from a newly created List, you cannot delete the actual List. To do that, you'll have to open Facebook and edit your Lists there.

Since Google+ was built after Facebook, Google has a huge advantage of fixing structural social network mistakes from the ground-up. Facebook created Lists long after the site went live, and the feature is not a core part of the social network, unlike Circles is on Google+. Furthermore, since people are only getting started on Google+, they can slowly build out their Circles as they add new friends. On Facebook, however, most people have hundreds of friends and it's simply a pain to organize them all. Even Circle Hack, which is a great attempt at simplifying the process, can only slightly reduce the effort required.

Although Circle Hack is not an official Facebook product, it does show that Facebook employees care about fixing certain aspects of the social network. The new website is a pretty good imitation of the Google+ Circles feature. I hope that Google+ and Circle Hack inspire Facebook to fix how Lists are created on the social network.

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Topics: Social Enterprise, Google

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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20 comments
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  • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

    They do SAY that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I don't always believe this to be true. I am certain that there are some things that should have exclusivity and should not be/have been changed. When it comes to this whole social networking thing, I don't feel that it is possible. Things can be improved, but imitation will always play a part because there is a basis that these things were built on that will not change. Myspace was the best thing going until Facebook took away it's exclusivity and opened it up to everyone. Being exclusive is what made Facebook so special and when people were able to join they felt ?special? too, they were finally ?in?. Facebook took that same social networking basis but improved upon it greatly and I do believe that this is what Google+ is attempting to do, and they will succeed. However, I do not believe that they will ?dethrone? Facebook, but they will give them a run for their money and ultimately come out neck and neck. It will become more of a which one do you prefer type of thing, just like some people are devoted to one brand over another. As far as this Google+ Circles vs. Facebook Circle Hack thing is concerned, I don?t believe that either was imitating another. For every great thought that someone has, someone before them has it and someone after them will have it. I guess it?s all in who gets to the copyright office first so to speak.
    sunflower.power
    • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

      @sunflower.power
      The thing with social networking is the SOCIAL part of it though. It can't just be "which one do I like best" because it's strengths lie in interacting with /others/. If everyone uses both then sure, I guess it can just be a 'which one do you like best' thing, but if not, people will go with whichever one their friends are going with...and it would be annoying to have some friends on one network, some on the other.

      I think facebook will eventually just implement the features that google did better than them and come out of this unscathed, while google+ ends up another failed experiment (although I do believe this one will get more traction than crap like buzz and wave). Even if I'm wrong though, I just hope one of them clearly dominates and the other goes away, because having social networking become fragmented would really be a pain...
      thisnameisok
    • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

      @sunflower.power Siempre me pregunto cuanto costaba la <strong><a href="http://www.sudolar.com">cotizacion del dolar hoy</a></strong>, ya me entere que <strong><a href="http://www.sudolar.com">SuDolar</a></strong> es el que tiene la cotizacion actualizada del <strong><a href="http://www.sudolar.com">dolar en banco</a></strong>
      sudolar
  • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

    I'm waiting for July 6th, as the momentum slows down and the interest wanes with Google+ and the many who have been left out (due to server not being able to handle the load, even with invites). C'mon Facebook, you can do it!!
    YeomanDroid
    • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

      @YeomanDroid 6th July would be a lovely day for Google to open the flood gates. They sabotage Microsoft announcement last week, I am pretty sure they will sabotage Facebooks this week. Probably with announcement of Google Questions and opening up Google + to wider audience.
      Knowles2
  • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

    sooooooo...Facebook "engineers" had to "hack" facebook? and they called it circle hack? more like circle jerk.
    swan_90266@...
    • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

      @swan_90266@... You really think that every Facebook engineer has access to all Facebooks' source code? THAT would be really stupid :-p
      Just a couple of guys that were bored in their spare time I guess, or maybe that didn't wanted the hassle of going through numerous approval processes for their 'idea' :-)
      belli_bettens@...
      • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

        @belli_bettens@... first of all Facebooks best coder isn't an "engineer". He was still in high school when he was the most sought after programmer in the valley. All the other good programmers at FB came from Google. And Circles wasnt FB's idea.
        swan_90266@...
  • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

    Facebook was well aware of the need for circles, and made decisions not to provide them. Now they try to hack it in just because a competitor will provide what people asked for? Low.
    rgcustomer@...
  • Like the author mentions: Circles have always been in facebook

    I have organized my professional affiliations, familes, friends, and hobby affilliations with lists for years. Google putatively built a flashier UI for lists, but it is essentially identical. The only difference is that Facebook already has half a billion customers and Google is creating an artificial buzz of exclusivity.
    Your Non Advocate
  • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

    Just check thinktank.tsert.com/patent-clubs.html
    zdnet-17
  • RE: Google, please Sync!

    Nice that they added this. You still can't really access your friend lists without jumping through hoops. The hack they really need is bringing lists back to the front page.
    I see in my FB interface a "suggested for this list" option which is very accurate and I hadn't seen that before. But what is the point of making lists if you can't filter on them?
    howardgr
  • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

    Who cares facebook an d social sites are for loosers, pedophiles and stalkers. The mental issues you see with those people on these sites is just insane and the non security each of these social sites offer is laughable. That some person would even endanger their machine like this just baffles me and shows how nieve and internet unsaivy these users are. Each one who gets hacked or info stolen deserves it for just being stupid. hopefully facebook twitter and now this google version die soon as interest is fading already.
    Fletchguy
    • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

      @Fletchguy The fact that you see "loosers" (heard of spellcheck? the word you're looking for is "losers" ie. people such as you), pedophiles and stalkers says far more about you than it does about facebook or twitter users.
      xplorer1959
    • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

      @Fletchguy Hey feltchguy (and no I did not misspell it BTW) it's quite obvious that you do not have a clue as to what you are talking about. <br><br><b>Who cares facebook an d social sites are for loosers, pedophiles and stalkers. </b><br><br>So according to you everyone on facebook (and other social networking sites) is a loser (yes it's spelled "losers" not "loosers" you moron), pedophile, and stalker. Really? Everyone on FB is all of the above? You are quite sure of yourself. Funny I'm on facebook and I can assure you that I am not a loser, pedophile, or stalker. And really in the strictest definition of a social networking site THIS site can also be considered a social networking site. Ooops, didn't consider that, did you. So that would mean - by YOUR so-called logic - that YOU a loser, pedophile, and stalker... but please go on. <b><br><br>The mental issues you see with those people on these sites is just insane and the non security each of these social sites offer is laughable.</b><br><br>And how does that differ from the mental issues of people on other sites - even here you have those who will rant about things they do not like, discredit those who use those things that the ranter does not like, call them names, and... oh wait - just like you did above. Got it, you proved your own point. And the security is what the individual makes it - one does NOT have to put anything other than a legit email addy on FB... and/or a legit mobile number if one accesses FB from a mobile device. But whatever dude, you must know best after all YOU have no mental issues... oh wait, I almost forgot about your issues I touched on above... sorry. next.<b><br><br> That some person would even endanger their machine like this just baffles me and shows how nieve and internet unsaivy these users are. </b><br><br>My God man can you please stop butchering the English language?!? It's almost painful to sit here and try to translate the sheer crap behind the misspellings and botched grammar. It's spelled "naive" and "savvy"... dude, you have the internet, when you see the red underlines at least go to dictionary.com and try to come up with the right word. And I've used FB for years and have yet to have any sort of malware or virus on my Windows 7 machine. It's called using common sense which I seriously doubt you possess.<b><br><br>Each one who gets hacked or info stolen deserves it for just being stupid. hopefully facebook twitter and now this google version die soon as interest is fading already.</b><br><br>Pot, meet kettle. But aside from your sheer hypocrisy and arrogance do you have any sort of verifiable proof that interest in Facebook and Google+ is "fading already"? No, that simply proves to me that you are just like every other troll on here - full of sound and fury signifying nothing.<br><br>Now go back to your fryer you got customers waiting.
      athynz
  • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

    Facebook had the "lists" functionality for years - I have friends who play those FB games and have people they met within those games on a different list from their "real life" friends... so I'm not sure why this hack was needed and why it's such a big deal.
    athynz
    • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

      @athynz

      You're definitely correct, however, it's become increasingly less functional on facebook lately... As they continue to obfuscate the privacy controls more lists become less and less easy to manage (in terms of access). I think + provides a better UI for the same sort of thing, plus makes the feature a bit more obvious.
      snoop0x7b
  • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

    already dozens of hackers is joined google + and will join others known and therefore will evolve quickly google + like linux it is the power of open Souce
    google=internet
    petux7
  • RE: Facebook engineers bring Google Circles to Facebook

    I have created a facebook app that automatically creates facebook friendlists according to your social communities, check it out at http://apps.facebook.com/the_social_map
    alonho
  • Some apps do this too...

    I use Tribe on my iPhone, which pretty much does the same thing - Tribes are akin to circles. Actually works rather well - can look at it here: http://www.maketribes.com/
    facebookfan