Circle App Makes GPS Stalking Feel Less Like Stalking

This new iPhone/Android app allows you to see your nearby friends in a friendly way.

GPS has latched on to society, and it’s not going anywhere. We use it to get directions and track our runs. We even check in at restaurants and stores, charting our progress around town for the world to see.

But there’s one aspect of global positioning that hasn’t really taken off yet: person-to-person tracking. We’ll announce when we’re out to dinner, but we tend to get sheepish when a service like Google Latitude shares our exact position, all the time, around town. And that means we lose something very important that GPS can offer us: spontaneity.

“It could be magical to always know who is around you, whether that’s knowing that your friend who you haven’t seen in six weeks is in a cafe next door, or that the woman sitting next to you on the plane is from your tiny hometown in Wisconsin,” Evan Reas tells Co.Design. He’s the CEO and co-founder of a new iPhone/Android app called Circle.

Circle doesn’t do anything fundamentally different from existing tracking products on the market. (It scans your Facebook account to find registered users, then it shares your coordinates while looking up theirs.) What Circle does differently is entirely in presentation.

Whereas most apps are essentially full-screen Google Maps with your friends on top, Circle’s UI completely de-emphasizes the map. It’s but a small icon on the homescreen, and your eye basically looks past it to the more important categories: what friends are in your area, and what network acquaintances (maybe fellow alumni or members of your bowling league) are around.

“We wanted to be the app that will quickly and simply give you the answer to ‘Who’s around me right now that I care about?’ anytime, anywhere,” writes Reas. And that “who is” rather than “where is” philosophy is seen at the core of the home screen. Rather than covertly stalking a blip on a map, you’re looking right at your friends. Your immediate introduction is actually quite human; it’s a form of face-to-face meeting. The secondary possibility is that you can use a gridded map to track them down. (The app also has a messaging component built in, so you won’t need to surprise your friend.)

Circle is facing a steep climb to success. It’s too early to know if this person-oriented interface alone is enough to make people comfortable sharing their precise longitude/latitude on the globe. But more importantly, it needs to convince a whole lot of people to download the app and register so that your friends actually sign up for the service (so we all can figure out if this actually feels right).

For now, Circle is a promising approach to a nut that no one has been able to crack. And if we ever want good old face-to-face interaction to make a comeback in (anti)social networking, it’s a nut most definitely worth cracking.

Download it here (iPhone) and sign up here (Android).

[Image: iofoto/Shutterstock]

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11 Comments

  • Darryl Lingwoodock

    I did NOT want this so if I have used my email acc can I get out of this thing? I do NOT want to be in this thing???

  • daryl

    dude this app is wack this causes stalking and huge privacy issues its no ones business where I am at all times im pretty sure this violates a lot of federal laws in most countries and and cause all kinds of horrible situations ummmm ex,s who have restraining orders locating you uhhh very creepy I don't even know why you would want to do this if you already have their contact and you want to let them know where you are just ask them if you have their facebook or number no need for this app unless you plan on devious activities or spying on people

  • Joel Bunker

    Circle has taken marketing, hacjing, and ignoring privacy rights to an illegal point of no return. I signed up fir circle a few days ago, then today and last night I recieved angry texts from friends and business contacts alike telling me not to text them ads. I also was asked not to text people in the middle of the night. That's right Circle sent texts to numbers located only on my cell phone, and did so as me!!! When I say as me, I mean they literally text from a number making it look like my number. The texts say, "Hey, I left you a messege at Circle, join so you can read it!" The texts appear to originate from my phone. As it so happens, one of these texts was to a prospective client I was targeting and in talks with. The illegal text, sent as myself, with a advertisement stating I left a messege that didn't exist, cost me the account. The would have been client found the fact that I said there was a message when there was none, the innappripriate time of the text, the non-social nature of our relationship, and the fact i sent an ad to be a sign of dishonest and faulty work. I therefore lost the account. How can they text as me?

  • Dejahthoris

    I just got a creepy text from some number in connecticut, saying (my name) I just messaged you on Circle, the local natwork. Then a link. So i called the number and the guy said sorry it was a mistake. How the h did he get my name and number? I am not a member of the Circle or any other network.

  • Manuel Armenteros

    Congratulation for this app. Since long time ago, I was wondering when someone was going to do it. Good luck!

  • oro

    I have a question regarding the circle app: when the message doesn't go through does it mean they blocked u???

  • Machini

    This is a brilliant venture which will eventually make socializing beaming and worthwhile. Can I get the entire article to read and once the venture is complete can I also get a product.
    machini2@yahoo.com

  • Angela Daffron

    My concern here is if the service will offer an opt-out or more preferably opt-in program for users.  I work with stalking victims everyday with Jodi's Voice (www.jodisvoice.org).  Many choose to safely use social media in an effort to stay connect while dealing with a crime that isolates its victims.  An app that does not allow an opt-in/out would endanger many who already know they are the victims of stalking, as well as, those who are unaware they are the victims of stalking. 

  • Erik Ahlin95

    You won't need a facebook account to use the app, just login with an email of yours and then you can start growing your circles.