Cirqle Debuts A Photo-Sharing App For Groups That Works Offline

A mobile application called Cirqle – no, not that Circle or that one either – launched last year as a way for users to share and collaborate on photo and video collections in groups, both public and private. Now Cirqle is rolling out version 2.0 on Thursday, which introduces an interesting new feature: offline mode. That means users can now share and collaborate on photo sets via Bluetooth technology, and the app will also suggest Cirqles (groups) for you to join based on your current or last known location.

The addition of an offline mode for social media-based collaboration is a timely twist for this nearly year-old app, and one that could finally see it getting picked up by a wider audience. (The app isn’t currently showing up on the App Store charts, according to App Annie.)

Offline social networking and communications apps are now picking up, as technology is helping those living under more authoritarian regimes tap into broader networks even without a cellular or Wi-Fi signal.

Recently, for example, the messaging app called FireChat from Open Garden, whose key feature is its ability to function while the device is offline by way of a peer-to-peer network, made headlines for being the technology powering communications during the Hong Kong protests.

Mesh networks don’t just make sense for poking holes in the Great Firewall, however, they can also be used when any large gathering of people overloads traditional cellular communications. Or say, when you’re out in the middle of the desert, and looking to coordinate with friends.

To work offline, Cirqle uses a Bluetooth connection and transmits data about the last item posted on Cirqle, then shares this data to other devices connected with the app.

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Like FireChat’s creator, Cirqle’s founders are also Russian. Katya Bazilevskaya, Alex Amyotov and Vasily Esmanov were the founding team of Look At Media, a sort of VICE for Russia. (Alex and Vasily continue to support the operations part-time, but are not day-to-day.) Meanwhile, CEO Alex Bystrov ran several product divisions at Look At Media as Chief Design Officer, and CTO Vladimir Bobrov was Look At Media’s CTO.

The team itself is international, spread out over Berlin, New York and Moscow, Bystrov tells us, and includes 14 full-time employees and a dozen content freelancers. He notes that some of the company’s community managers are now embedded in the Hong Kong protests, where the app could presumably be used to spread word of the happenings through the eyes of protesters – or rather, their smartphones’ cameras.

So far, Cirqle has been used to document the Hong Kong Umbrella Revolution, as well as the Russian March for Peace, in addition to more professional or personal content.

The stories collected on Cirqle, unlike with some other mobile-first social networking apps, can also be spread further via the desktop web, as Cirqle supports website embeds. (For example this. Or this.)

The company’s business model will, in the future, involve paid subscriptions aimed at professional content creators and brands. For now, though, the app is free.

Bystrov declined to say how many users are on Cirqle today, but claims that the newly revamped app will exit public beta by the end of the month, and has an international audience of “tens of thousands.”

Cirqle, which also received a visual makeover for the 2.0 release, is currently bootstrapped, but the team is in discussions with VCs.

The app is a free download here on iTunes, however, the new version won’t arrive until Thursday, October 9th.