Thursday, October 14, 2004
Lycos' Releases Integration Product: Circles
Lycos released yesterday Circles, an integration / social networking product for all its services. Circles is very beta; many features are still being rolled out. Right now, Circles has eight features: Text, Photos, Website, Group Greeting Cards, Invitation, Prediction, Poll, and Movie $ Sound Clips. Basically, here's how it works, as explained to me by the Circles team:
You sign up for Circles, then your friends sign up, just like in Orkut. The program allows you to define relationships as friendships, business relationships, even say who your best friends are. You also define relationships to keyword-based interest groups, which because they are keyword-based, they have no annoying moderators and are open to the community at large.
Text feature refers to blogging. You write a post, using a typical blogging interface, and you can define, for each message, exactly which friend or group can read it. You can even see your blog as they would see it, from a simple drop-down menu.
Photos is just that, you share photos using your one gigabyte of web space. Circles adjusts your photos to lower the file sizes, changing everything to 800x1000. Just like in the blog, comments can be enabled here, so your friends can comment on all your pictures.
Websites is a public favorites system, a "take a look at this site" thing, and your friends can comment here too.
Clips lets you post audio or video clips. The clips can be up to twenty megabytes, and the total clip space is 100 of your 1000 megabytes. Since all of this stuff can be made public, limiting the clip space is a necessary way to prevent rampant file sharing. Although the Circles team explained that there is no system to prevent the upload of copyrighted files, it is against the Terms Of Service, and anyone caught will be shut down.
Invitations is eVite, but a whole lot more convenient. Since your friends are presumable all signed up, its a whole lot easier to share invites to parties and other events. Your friends can see who's coming, and post comments about what's going on.
Cards is pretty self-explanatory, although it being integrated into the interface makes it more powerful than a typical e-card.
Prediction and Poll go hand in hand; the difference is that unlike a regular poll, a prediction is where you ask "What will happen?" and it's great to see the comments as the poll is going on.
Having comments in every feature makes it a much more community tool; having blogging-centered features makes it more social than most social-networking sites. Circles has better integration with Lycos than Orkut has with Google. It's several times more advanced than LiveJournal; I would go so far as to call it a LiveJournal killer.
It's still beta, so there are many features yet to be added. Proper integration with all Lycos services is in the works and will be added as the months go by. Soon you can expect email to join those features, along with IM and whatever else Lycos has. Angelfire and Tripod integration is almost done, and I would hope they plan on building Matchmaker into it. Wish lists, along with community reviews of books, movies and music are coming.
"Circles" refers to your circle of friends, but secretly it refers to something far bigger. One of the Lycos guys described it as "concentric circles" surrounding everything Lycos does, with Circles as the center of those circles. Basically, Lycos has built a very powerful, very effective interface, which they can plug every single product the company offers into. In the coming months, Circles is going to get a software client that works with everything Circles does and will do, and assists in uploads while working as a notifier.
Circles is Lycos's central interface now, a "structured, centralized inteface". It is exactly what Google wishes they had; a base on which to place everything. Google has many disparate products that don't work together; Gmail doesn't work with Desktop Search, Google Images doesn't work with Picasa, and Google Groups doesn't work with Blogger. Lycos has solved every one of those problems, and now has an interface that will only get more powerful as time goes by.
Any other week, this would have been big news. Because of Google Desktop, I haven't seen a single post all day, which is a real shame, since Circles is a quality product that deserves notice. Lycos has the worst luck.