Dec. 12, 2013 at 6:20 PM ET
What goes around, comes around — that sums up the idea behind Circle, a fast-growing social app that focuses on keeping things in the neighborhood.
Think of Circle as a cross between a social network, a community board and a news site. The recently revamped free app, which took the top spot on this week's iTunes apps chart and is also available for Android, pulls in data from Twitter and its own users to display nearby events, news, sports updates, nightlife recommendations and more in one clean, colorful feed.
"It's the local app that tells you what's happening nearby, right now," Evan Reas, the 29-year-old CEO of Hawthorne Labs, told NBC News. "Someone sent me an email last night that said, 'It's like the community board you would see in a little cafe.'"
Reas should know. Several years ago, he performed some unconventional, analog beta-testing by bringing a physical whiteboard around to different cafes in San Francisco. After sitting down, he would write messages like, "Hey, I'm visiting from Wisconsin, I'd like to hang out with anybody who plays ultimate Frisbee" or "I'm visiting, does anybody know the best place to study?"
The enthusiastic response, he said, led him to move forward with Circle, where users can post their own events, restaurant recommendations and pretty much anything else they think people in their city might be interested in. (The app depends on moderators to weed out illicit or inappropriate activity).
The result is a product that's more nimble than a print event guide, and more focused and immediately practical than your Facebook feed.
"If I blow a tire, and I'm in Madison, Wisc., I could put it on Facebook, and my friends would say, 'Oh, that's too bad,'" said Reas. "But nobody is necessary going to help me because they aren't located near me."
If a few of the app's 12 million registered users happened to be nearby, however, they could hypothetically decide to be good Samaritans and drive to the rescue.
Currently, Reas has made what he calls "Twitter for Main Street" available to 920 U.S. markets, with an eye towards expanding.
Keith Wagstaff writes about technology for NBC News. He previously covered technology for TIME's Techland and wrote about politics as a staff writer at TheWeek.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @kwagstaff and reach him by email at: Keith.Wagstaff@nbcuni.com