Social and photography are two very crowded markets in the App Store. Getting noticed is the first trick; gathering a following is the next. The developers of Cirqle for iPhone (free) are hoping their combination of communal photo streams, or "cirqles," will succeed in both areas. It's a compelling idea and the execution is pretty well done, but I'm not convinced it's compelling enough to lure customers away from established services.
Cirqle lets you shoot photos and organize them into albums called "cirqles." When you shoot a photo, you have three share options: Curated, Open and Private. A Curated cirqle is open only to those you invite. Participants can view the images in your cirqle and contribute their own. Private cirqles are just for you. No one will ever find them via search or other means. That leaves Open.
This is where it gets interesting. You can use the app to browse a list of Open cirqles, or search for keywords. Once you've found one that you like, you're free to check it out. For example, I found one that features photos taken around New York City. It was fun to look at neighborhoods and landmarks I've seen before. From there, I could subscribe to the cirqle to receive notification of new contributions, or apply to be a contributor. Once the cirqle's owner approves my request, I'm free to add my own shots of NYC to the collaborative effort.
Sounds neat, right? Well it is. The UI is pretty and there are even featured cirqles full of high-quality images. The only problem I see is convincing family and friends to use yet another social service. It's true that it isn't necessary for your loved ones to participate, but I think it'll be a lot more compelling if they do. I imagine creating an invite-only Curated cirqle for a family vacation, holiday get-together or other noteworthy, memorable event. I think Cirqle is pretty and well done, yet I know "selling" it to siblings, etc. who are already using Path, Facebook, Twitter and so on will be a tough job.
Give Cirqle a try and let me know what you think. It's a well-executed resident of a very crowded market.