Betaworks Unveils Swirl, A Mobile App That Turns Hashtags Into Photo Albums

summer bedard swirl

Photo: Google Plus

People share a lot of pictures on Twitter and Instagram, which are often followed by a relevant hashtag.Dennis Crowley, for example, tweets “#FatDennys” anytime he eats something unhealthy. He does this so often, Foursquare named its cafeteria after the hashtag.

But even with the frequently used hashtags, photos shared on Twitter and Instagram aren’t easily searchable. They’re not organised in any fashion; once they’re far down the feed, they’re essentially lost forever.

Swirl is a new iPhone app that’s being rolled out by Betaworks today. Its founder, UX designer Summer Bedard, has been working on it for six months. 

The moment you download the app, Swirl starts organising your shared Twitter and Instagram pictures into hashtag-based photo albums. If other people use the same hashtag for their pictures, their images will appear in that Swirl album too. So every picture with the hashtag #cute, for example, will be aggregated on a single “cute” Swirl page.

“The reason I wanted to make Swirl is because my friends use the same tags for weddings, birthdays and other events,” says Bedard. “I kept watching them do it, and I figured there should be something that just pulls them all together.”

Of course, the current app and website have a few problems. If you search the hashtag #gorgeous, for example, naked women pop up. Bedard also acknowledges that Swirl has a “teen girl spam” problem; many people add numerous hashtags to their photos which can drown out relevant images.

Swirl does have a few good use cases. Conferences, for example, can organise photos shared from their events on Swirl.

Before creating Swirl, Bedard worked for and StickyBits, as well as for Yahoo. Swirl is the first company she’s founded.

Bedard was connected to Betaworks one year ago. She initially presented a few different app wire frames; Betaworks was most excited about Swirl. Bedard got to work, and she’s since brought on some additional employees, including a woman she attended graduate school with.

Here’s what the app looks like. The website,, shows photos from the entire Twitter and Instagram community. The mobile app only shows pictures posted by people you follow on the social networks:

swirl cats

Photo: Swirl


Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.