When the purported launch of your social network is co-hosted by the ACLU, there's really no secret about what the cornerstone of said service might be. This is the case with Google Circles, rumored to launch at SXSW this evening.
While the swirling rumors indicate this might not be a finished product, there is almost certainly something called Google Circles arriving very soon, courtesy Google, that will offer users photo, video and status message capabilities. The catch, and what differentiates it from the enormous blue and white elephant in the room right now, is that users will share info only with "the most appropriate social contacts of their lives," writes ReadWriteWeb—not everyone at once.
You can do this with Facebook, of course, but it's by no means the default. Targeting your updates and content requires a few settings changes and hoop-jumping on that platform, but it is not impossible.
Limiting that social blast effect to all followers form the get-go, and mimicking the more private, closed-off social circles we humans have in our offline lives, appears to be the central tenet of this new service. More to come, I'm sure, with Google hopefully explaining how this is going to be different (and more successful?) than their previous social network attempts.
Update: Google just denied that Circles would debut at SXSW today. No launch imminent, rep says.
Update 2: Google's Chris Messina, pegged as the mind behind Google Circles, smashes this rumor once and for all at SXSW today with a definitive "no." Tim O'Reilly, emaling Network Effect, said what he saw was just research stuff never meant for the end user. [ReadWriteWeb, Image Credit: Circle Packing Artifact (Creative Commons)]