Real-time opinions with Thumb

Thumb is a cross-platform mobile-social network for iOS and Android that aims to allow users to connect with one another to share their opinions on a wide variety of topics. The core principle of the service is to allow users to post simple questions with yes/no answers, and then other community members may respond with a thumbs up, thumbs down, neutral response or specific comment.

This review is based on the iOS version, tested on an iPhone 4S running iOS 6.

Signing up to the service can either be done through Facebook or creating an account using the user’s email address. Once logged in, users are immediately confronted with their first questions and can start responding. By default, the user is presented with questions from a broad array of topics, but a filter button on the front page allows for customization of the experience. For example, if the user only wishes to answer questions about music, movies and TV, then they may do so; likewise, they may enable a number of topics that are disabled by default, including a category specifically for questions regarding the service itself.

When they see fit, the user can post their own question quickly and easily from the app’s main screen. Creating a question is a simple matter of typing the wording of the question into the text box. Suggestions are given as the user types if they are struggling for wording. Once the question has been chosen, the user must then attach an image to the question. This defaults to the device’s camera, but images may also be selected from the user’s photo library or retrieved from in-app access to Google Image Search.

Once this is done, the user must put the question in one or more categories and may then “target” the question at a specific demographic. By default, questions are aimed at both genders in the age bracket into which the user falls — it’s possible to choose to aim a question at a specific gender but not, it seems, at a different age bracket. The app’s justification for this is that “the best way to get truly helpful opinions is from people within your age range, as they’re most likely to have a similar mindset.” This is a fair point, but it would be helpful to at least have the option to open questions up to a wider audience where appropriate.

Users may also turn off public questioning altogether and/or target the question specifically at friends on the service or entries from their contacts. Once all the steps have been completed, the user is given one last chance to review their question before submission, and it is then sent into the void to be answered by the target audience.

Users get immediate feedback on their questions through the “Responses” tab of the app, where they can see at a glance how many votes their question has received and the percentage who voted either thumbs up or thumbs down. If someone leaves a specific comment on the question, a badge notification appears on the interface to make it clear that something may have been posted that the user wishes to review or respond to.

Incentive is provided for users to regularly engage with the app through a “Star Achievements” system. Users may earn “stars” by leaving comments on questions which are subsequently starred by the original asker, and this has, at times, led to impromptu competitions between users — and this is encouraged by a leaderboard system that tracks the player’s performance against their friends. It has also led to a number of questions that do not fit the “thumbs up/thumbs down” format particularly well, arguably somewhat diluting the original intention of the service.

Thumb is a slickly-designed and works well — though it did appear to drain the iPhone 4S’ battery surprisingly quickly for some reason. The interface is clear and simple to understand, and intuitive enough to not require an explicit tutorial. It encourages user engagement but is simple and low-maintenance for users to keep on top of. Those who wish to strike out and attempt to make some new friends through the service may do so through the comments system, while those who are simply happy to idly vote on the endless stream of questions when they have a quiet moment are also more than adequately catered to.

The only questionable factor in the long term is how the service is going to continue to support itself. The app itself is not monetized with any form of in-app purchase or advertising, and there does not appear to be a prominent brand presence, making an implementation of something along the lines of “promoted questions” impractical. At present, the service is enjoying a healthy number of users — over 1.2 million at last count — but whether or not that lasts remains to be seen. For the moment, however, Thumb is a simple, fun and well-designed means through which people can engage with one another through the sharing of opinions.

Thumb is currently ranked at No. 113 in the Top Free Social Networking apps leaderboard on iOS. The Android version, meanwhile, is currently ranked at No. 72 in the Google Play Social Apps chart. Follow both versions’ progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social apps and developers.