Mobile social opinion app Thumb (originally Opinionaded, until a 2011 rebrand) is today launching a version 3.0 upgrade for iPhone, bringing even more emphasis on the social engagement aspects of the app. That side of things is something that Thumb CEO Dan Kurani said in an interview wasn’t even designed to be a big part of what the mobile software offered originally, but has since become maybe its strongest element.
Thumb provides its users with a social platform through which to get opinions on any subject. Initially, it was designed as a a social shopping aide, so that people could, for example, try on a dress, snap a photo, and check with random people online to do a quick, informal poll about whether it suited them. In the two years since its original iPhone launch, however, Thumb has evolved into what it is today, a much more general purpose social opinion platform, guided largely by user behavior.
Kurani said that while unexpected, that shift also wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, even though it derailed early monetization plans centered around partnerships with commerce and retail companies.
“It turned out that while we did get some shopping related questions, probably 90 percent plus were broader questions about relationships, or what users should eat for lunch, or whether they should cut their hair or not, or what kind of car they should buy,” he told us. “The questions were literally as broad-based as you could get.” That ended up leading to a lot more social engagement, so where Kurani and his team were aiming to create a utility, they ended up with a social network.
While Thumb’s growth was fueled by questions, the company is now allowing users to post anything for others to vote on – simply state an opinion or post a photo of something you like. Users can also now save items to their profile to help them quickly build out a profile of what they’re interested in, and message one another directly, making it possible to connect with other like-minded individuals.
Thumb is a bit of a dark horse in social opinion sharing that has taken a backseat to wildly popular options like Yelp, and not so successful, high-profile apps like Oink. But the app has built remarkable engagement so far, with its network of users spending almost four hours a month posting opinions with the app. Plus, the unique mechanic of requiring that users either thumb up, thumb down, or vote neutral on any item in the stream before they can view the next one means that individual posts generate lots of responses – often much more than you’d typically get on Facebook or Twitter. And that’s where the company sees lots of potential for revenue generation.
“We have our eye on two fairly significant disruptions. One is the amount of sheer data we’re gathering – the average user on our system gives an average of 800 responses, and that’s actually growing,” Kurani said. “Because of the real-time nature of the product, we could get info on how users feel about the BP oil spill, for instance, or about a politician or product instantaneously.”
That kind of data is obviously valuable to companies looking to manage their reputations, and Kurani also notes that the platform is well-suited to matching individuals with brands, products and services based on their taste graph, so the kind of advertising Google does with search also isn’t out of the question.
With this update, Thumb shows a maturation of both its product and its vision. For much of its history, it’s appeared as a scrappy survivor with a key ability to adapt to its users needs. Oink’s recent shutdown shows the obvious challenges associated with building a mobile community centered around opinions, but so far Thumb’s users have been eager to engage, and to give the app a thumbs up.