Google Acquires Katango, The Automatic Friend Sorter

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Back in September we broke the news that Google was in talks to acquire Katango, a small Kleiner Perkins-backed startup that launched this past summer. Today, they’ve made it official: Katango just announced that it’s been acquired by Google, and that it’ll be joining the Google+ team. We’re also hearing that Google isn’t only acquiring Katango for their talent — it’s interested in their technology as well.

Katango is a logical fit for Google, though their initial product was focused primarily on Facebook.

The startup first debuted an iPhone app in July, setting out to made it easier to selectively share with various groups of friends on Facebook. Facebook’s List feature has long allowed users to share certain pieces of content with different friends, but it did little to automate the process of actually breaking your friends out into different groups. That’s where Katango came in: you’d connect the app with your Facebook social graph, and it would analyze your friends to automatically sort them into different buckets.

It was powerful, but the competitive landscape changed significantly shortly after Katango’s launch. In September, Facebook unveiled Smart Lists, which also help automate the process of separating friends into lists (it offers some pre-built lists, like coworkers and people who live nearby, and its suggestion feature makes it easy to build custom lists as well). In other words, Facebook is solving the problem itself.

But Google+ has a feature that’s analogous to Facebook’s Friend Lists: Circles. And while Google has promoted Circles heavily, both in its marketing and on Google+ itself, it doesn’t do much in the way of automatically helping users sort their friends into Circles — there’s still a lot of legwork involved. Which Katango seems perfectly suited to help with.

Here’s a statement from a Google spokesperson:

“We were impressed by the Katango team’s innovative approach to making your social circles smarter, and we think they’ll be a great addition to the Google+ team.”