It didn’t take me long to get hooked on This. This., or This.cm (Not dot com, just dot cm.) being the new social network. It’s in invite-only Alpha mode right now, which means it’s still devoid of the pop stars, trolls and spammers who have found a home on Twitter. At present it’s a haven for the smart and articulate, a bit like Twitter was in 2007 when I joined.
It seems a new social network materializes every month or so, but I think This. could be an up-and-coming, as opposed to the fad networks like with nice features which never seem to get a sizable base (lookin’ at you, App.Net) or the gimmicky platforms like the one where Yo is the only thing you can say.
The people at This. seem to recognize that the success of an app relies more on its community than its technology. Through its Alpha mode, This. seems to be building a base of people who are prone to share interesting content, not unlike Twitter’s first moves to build a user base through events like SXSW which naturally draw smart, interesting people.
I have the sense that a lot of thought went into This.’s minimalist design, seemingly crafted to curate and share online content more than to interact around it. You’re limited to one post per day, each of which must point to a URL. You can write a few words (110 characters) about the URL, credit the author of what you’re sharing and include an auto-generated horizontal slice from any one of the images on that page, but that’s it. No image uploads, no status updates outside of the context of sharing a URL, no responding to other users beyond thanking them for or reposting their content.
The net impact of this? Less noise? When social media was younger, the need for a more interactive (more 2.0?) web was big. Now there’s no shortage of places to opine online, and the thought of being able to curate interesting content without having to think about who will respond and how is really appealing. The one post a day enforces a little scarcity, requiring Thissians to choose what they post or repost with great care. For me, This. is akin to entering an art museum in a busy city, letting the door close on the honking taxis and souvenir hawkers outside. I’m on Twitter every day, but This. offers a nice counterbalance to the bustle of the larger social networks.
I’m curious if This. will change if and when the social network hits the mainstream. Probably. You’ll have Internet marketers using their post-a-day to drive maximum traffic, celebrities posting ill-considered content and maybe even trolls whose posts are designed solely to infuriate. The hashtag, the vile and wonderful thing it is, will no doubt seep in through some crack and become a permanent fixture on This. as well.
But I suspect This. will always be a quieter place, favoring more contemplative users and pushing the conversations over to Facebook and Twitter. Rather than trying to unseat the major social networks, This. offers a refreshing alternative space, and by pairing nicely with Twitter and Facebook, will likely be around for years to come.