Social Networking

Unthink Rages Against the Facebook Machine

The creators of a new social network are challenging users to ditch Facebook and other networks to “unthink” and de-clutter with their new, completely user-controlled and private network., launched Tuesday in beta, hopes to capitalize on growing discontent among social network users for support.

The site displays various videos outlining its manifestos and the reasoning behind Unthink. One tells the site’s creation story, wherein Unthink founder Natasha Dedis read Facebook’s terms of service after her young son came to her asking to join, and she decided Mark Zuckerberg’s network exploited privacy for profit. She set off to create an alternative social network where the user was in complete control.

She says the site’s mission is to “emancipate social media and unleash people’s extraordinary potential,” which would then “spark a social revolution.”

A YouTube video advertising the site shows an actress in an off-the-shoulder tee emblazoned with ‘Wild and Free’ running into a Google+ t-shirt-clad man and a Mark Zuckerberg lookalike on a city street. She confronts both, proclaiming, “You can’t own me!”

The startup is backed by about US$2.5 million from Douglas Bay Capital, according to a TechCrunch report.

Unthink did not respond to TechNewsWorlds’ requests for comments by press time.

How Is It Different?

To combat the privacy structure of other networks, Unthink creates separate spheres for users to share whatever information they like to only certain groups of people.

Using a video featuring an animated Unthink user, “Kate,” the site demonstrates a typical social network user bemoaning redesigns and arbitrary privacy changes that come with Facebook and other networks. Kate says she joined a social network to make her life easier, but with all the clutter and confusion she wanted to “unthink,” or have all her social contacts and outreach in a personally customized place.

To do so, she uses a tree to separate groups such as professional contacts and friends. Users would apparently use a similar structure to post pictures, videos, links or status updates to whomever they please.

According to the limited screenshots and previews available of the social pages, the layout and appearance look relatively similar to Facebook’s or Google+’s, with a spot for a profile picture, messages, any personal information a user would like to share and separate tabs for pictures, videos and links.

Users also have an option upon sign-up to import their photos and videos from Facebook to make a transfer a little swifter and more complete.

Facebook Tough to Topple

Over much of its existence Facebook has faced an ever-growing chorus of critics focusing on its privacy policies. Consumer advocacy groups, parents and a young users who worry about whether their Facebook-documented exploits could come back to haunt them later in life have all been vocal about how damaging so much online personal information can be.

Douglas Schuler, a creator of the Public Sphere Project, created a game for Facebook called “Activist Mirror,” wherein Facebook users can take a quiz and figure out what kind of activists they were. The game didn’t catch on as quickly as he and the other developers had hoped.

“When we announced the game, we quickly learned that many of the people that we’d hope to engage were very resistant to playing ‘Activist Mirror.’ Several people communicated to me that they weren’t worried because they’d be labeled as activists, only that they had little faith in what would be done with any info,” Schuler told TechNewsWorld.

Nevertheless, Facebook is thriving and growing both domestically and worldwide. When Google+ came on the scene, it introduced settings similar to Unthink’s tree, where information could be selectively shared. Though Google’s effort at social networking generally got an A+ for effort, Google+ didn’t overcome the entrenched power of Facebook.

Though the site may be able to ride a wave of some of the overall social discontent sparked by Occupy Wall Street or the Arab Spring and a general frustration with current world affairs, it’s questionable this attempt will become popular enough to topple the social networking behemoth.

“Another example of specialized social sites would be, for instance, a social network for those with a chronic disease, and there are likely much more examples, and we’ll see more of those, but those are not mainstream of course. I have a feeling ‘unthink’ will not be mainstream either because of it’s limited focus,” Pim Bilderbeek, analyst with GigaOM Pro, told TechNewsWorld.

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