Sharing on Facebook can get complicated if you only want to do so with college friends, colleagues or golf buddies. You have to manually sort potentially hundreds of people into separate groups.
Katango, a free iPhone application introduced on Tuesday, intends to alleviate the hassle by automatically organizing Facebook friends.
In theory, its technology will detect who is a family member, who attended the same high school or who lives in the same city and place them in the relevant group.
Users of the app can then reach out to people in a particular group with a message or photo, without spamming or over sharing with everyone one else.
“We’re stuck in the manual stage of social networking,” said Yoav Shoham, Katango’s co-founder. “This will simplify your social life.”
Organizing friends is a critical battleground in social networking after the limited introduction last month of Google’s latest social network, Google +.
Google is encouraging users to manually sort their friends into “circles,” or groups that are more in keeping with how people maintain friendships offline.
To get started with Katango, users must connect the Katango app to their Facebook account. Google + is not compatible.
Katango’s algorithm then analyzes profile information, interactions with friends and interactions between friends. Based on that information, the service tries to group related friends together.
Once the process is complete, users of Katango can then share messages and photos with people in a particular group. Users can send content through Katango to people who also have the Katango app; to Facebook pages or via e-mail to friends who are not on Facebook.
In addition to Facebook, Katango can be connected to a user’s contacts on the iPhone or iPad.
Mr. Shoham, who is a computer science professor at Stanford University and previously sold a company to Ariba, a business software company, acknowledges that Katango’s technology is imperfect. After getting the results, users may have to refine them, he said.
The algorithm provides the initial group structure, but users must then hone it, Mr. Shoham said. Over time, he expects the technology to improve.
Various social networks are already headed in a similar direction, although they do not go as far as Katango. Facebook and LinkedIn both suggest friends or contacts to link to, but do not take the next step.
Katango, based in San Francisco, has yet to disclose a way to make money.