Google has tried to “automate” a process that our brains do in a millisecond… classify our friends. We don’t want our business associates to see the baby pictures mom sent, so we can differentiate which friends see what — a feature Facebook doesn’t allow us to do very easily. Sounds great.
But, the main problem with Google Circles is that it’s tedious. While we do this, without thinking, in real life, seperate our contacts in a social network is a chore. It’s one of the reasons we have different social networks (LinkedIn for work, Facebook for friends, etc.). Asking people to do this kind of organizing proactively, on a single network, vastly overestimates the patience of Web users. Sure, some people are very organized and left-brained (like the engineers who created Google+), with spotless inboxes and well-maintained lists of contacts, but my feeling is that the vast majority aren’t. And of all the things that have turned people off of Facebook over the years, the lack of focus on friend-organizing tools isn’t one of them.