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Bob Caswell “What if You Had the Idea of Google+ Circles Three Years Ago?”


Bob Caswell, a product manager at Microsoft, asked an interesting question on his Google+ stream. He asked, “What if you had the idea of Google+ “Circles” three years ago but decided to pursue other interests?”

Well, maybe I’d be writing this from the beach in Tahiti? Who knows.

Come to find out, Caswell did have an idea very similar to Google+ Circles but being the cautious entrepreneur he is, it stayed just that – an idea. In a post on his personal blog (which he didn’t point to his Google+ stream like some tech bloggers have done), he talked about a project he worked on while he was a student at Purdue University. It was called iPrivacyManager or “iPM”.

You can read some snippets from his business plan here, but the paragraph which is most interesting is this one:

Currently, user profiles posted on Facebook and other sites are potentially accessible in an identical way by a wide range of acquaintances, who are typically kept separate in real life (employers, coworkers, fellow students/alumni, friends, family, and relatives).

So, although there was no mention of “circles”, the main jest of them is there. What’s the moral of this story? Here it is in Bob Caswell’s own words:

I have been asked what the moral of the story is and thought I’d add a mini-epilogue here. For me, this is the story of entrepreneurship often untold. You have to give up a lot for the hopes of a nice pay off, and the odds are against you. But what happens when you go with a decision where the odds are in your favor?I’m cautious by nature, so also being entrepreneurial is a bit of a paradox. But I have no regrets on this. I think being cautious worked out well for me, actually. That said, if you choose the cautious route, be prepared for someone else to do exactly what you were planning (in my case, Google!).

Do you think the world was ready for Google+ 3 years ago? Heck, is it ready for it now?



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