1. Introduction: What is Circles?

Circles is an app for secure social networking. It provides a safe and convenient way to keep in touch with your close friends and family.

On the surface, the app looks and feels like any other social network that you’ve probably used before. You can post photos and written messages whenever it’s convenient for you, and then your friends can come along later to catch up whenever it’s convenient for them.

Underneath, Circles works like an encrypted messenger app. Every message is encrypted on your device with a secret key, and can only be decrypted by your friends’ devices that have the decryption key. This means that the server(s) in between can’t spy on your messages or inject unwanted content into your timeline.

At present, Circles runs on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices running iOS 14.5 or greater. We hope to add support very soon for newer Mac computers with Apple Silicon processors. A future version of Circles will also support Android phones and tablets.

Circles is built on Matrix. To use Circles, you will need an account on a Matrix server. You can easily sign up for an account on our server at Kombucha.social, or you can run your own server using something like Synapse.

2. Installing the Circles App

Circles is currently in beta testing on Apple’s TestFlight service. (TestFlight is like Apple’s version of the App Store for apps that are in testing.)

To install the app, open this link on your iOS device: Circles on TestFlight

That page from Apple will guide you through the process of first installing the TestFlight app, then installing Circles through TestFlight.

3. Creating an Account

Step 1. Validate your signup token

Step 2. Register your email address

Step 3. Enter the email validation code

Step 4. Set up your public profile information

Step 5. Choose cover photos for your circles

4. Using Circles

Circles provides two different ways to share updates with your people. These correspond to two different kinds of social structures in the real world.

4.1. Secure Social Circles

A “circle” in Circles is where you can share updates with a bunch of people in your life, even if they don’t all know each other. And at the same time, it’s a convenient place for you to keep up with updates from all of them.

You can have multiple circles in Circles, so you can share different things with different sets of people. For example, you might have:

  • One circle for your family, where you post an endless stream of baby photos.
  • One circle for your current and former work colleagues, where you post news about promotions, new projects, and new jobs.
  • One circle for your friends, where you post jokes, silly memes, and personal news.

Inviting people to join your circle

Accepting an invitation to a friend’s circle

4.2. Private Groups

A “group” in Circles is where a bunch of people who all know each other can keep in touch. Everyone in the group sees every message posted into the group.

A group is a good fit for any organized group of people in the real world. For example:

  • Your book club
  • Your scout troop or soccer team
  • The parents in your kid’s preschool class

4.3. Encrypted Photo Galleries

5. Security and Privacy