Today I became an UNTHINKer. One of the first messages I get when I log on to the latest anti-Facebook social network is a note that says, “This is your Lifestyle Stream. Use it to connect with BRANDS and earn rewards.” At the bottom of the page there is a scrolling ticker, encouraging me to become a “Pioneer” on UNTHINK.com. There’s a section called the “iEndorse Channel,” which I can hide if I want to own a “Self-Endorsed Suite.”
If you're confused, you're not alone. When I first heard about UnThink last week and watched one of their snazzy online videos, I was intrigued to hear about a social network that aims to give end users more control over interacting with brands. In other words, instead of using a service like Facebook that leverages your personal information to make money, UNTHINK bills its site as a destination where the community owns the experience.
With the current of anti-corporate thought in the Western world, particularly among web-savvy surfers, the timing couldn't be better to give individuals the power to decide what happens to the information we share online. The Florida-based organization has a noble mandate, “to emancipate social media and unleash people’s extraordinary potential.” Its “About Us” message reveals a desire to spark a revolution that will change the world.
While there is definitely demand for more privacy and control within social networking sites, and the concept of owning your virtual space online (with the UNTHINK deed) instead of just building your presence to make someone else's “digital property” more powerful, the start-up has a long road ahead.
I like the idea of UNTHINK, but what I don't like is how much I have to think about how to use their platform. The overall design of the site is cluttered, too much happening on the page and too many sections to manage. On my homepage alone there are three panes, each with a few different boxes of content, some complete with their own internal set of tabs. Instead of veering towards a clean design – like, say, Google+ – UNTHINK leans a little more towards the look-and-feel of MySpace. Also, they might want to scrap the iBELIEVE and iENDORSE nomenclature (if they're looking to get away from corporate thinking, this naming convention screams Apple).
It's tough to pull in any friends since the service (naturally) doesn't sync up with Twitter and Facebook. You can sort through your email contacts, but for new users this might be a little cumbersome. Within “My Network” as soon as I log on there is a big fat “0,” no suggested friends, followers, or connections, and no visible recommendation to populate that very important area.
To be fair, the platform is still in Beta. The company is honest and open about looking for feedback and improving “your online space.” Despite any shortcomings, UNTHINK has received a lot of positive press and attention. As Facebook membership soars above 800M people, there is an appetite for something different. However, while being different should be revered, no company will ever be able to take on the social networking giants without providing a seamless user experience. Designers have to make it easy for the community to use a new service like this or they will simply “unthink” about using the site forever.