Alex Walker is careful to say that his is not a social media app. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. Spindle, the app that the ‘09 CA alum created with cofounder Amanda Lin, encourages you to “tell it like it is,” something Walker says is lacking in the world of today’s self-curated use of social media.
Launched in early September, Spindle is a kind of journaling app where users create rapid-fire content using text, sound, and photos with the intention of keeping it private. “In fact, it’s a totally private experience with just a few ‘social’ features,” he says.
Spindle works like this: Once content is created on the app, users can share that content almost as an afterthought by inviting friends to view it. It will then appear on that friend’s timeline, where they can either view the content and have it disappear, or save it permanently to their own timeline. While content can also be shared with friends, there are no “friending” options like on other platforms.
The result? Walker anticipates “authenticity.” “This problem of curating your life on social media,” says Walker, “is just such a strange behavior and so antithetical to human nature. Humans get a lot out of being straightforward. It’s healthy.” Walker’s insight is informed from his studies in Engineering Product Design at Stanford, where he also took classes in psychology.
Already the app, which is available for download in the iOS App Store, is hitting a nerve with users. It has been written about in tech blogs like Social Media Knowledge as well as Tech Crunch, where the article posted was shared 1,736 times.
Spindle is particularly gaining a following among high school students. Walker infers its popularity with the demographic is due to the fact that it creates a platform for authentic self-expression.
“This problem of curating your life on social media is just such a strange behavior and so antithetical to human nature. Humans get a lot out of being straightforward. It’s healthy.”
It was his own sort of self-expression that got him into coding in the first place. After graduating from Stanford, Walker worked as a mechanical engineer on a hardware startup, where he had an idea to improve the user experience of the product. “So I learned how to code,” he says. “Since then it was sort of ‘off to the races.’”
For Walker, it’s the immediate user response that makes coding appealing. “I love that you can get feedback from users right away and start implementing whatever you see from data in order to improve the experience.”
Other draws to coding include the fact that it allows him to incorporate multiple disciplines into the build — disciplines like art, engineering, programming and even psychology.
“One of the things I remember most about my time at Colorado Academy was that interdisciplinary studies were actually encouraged. It continues to hit home for me that it’s ok to pursue a lot of different things at once. Without that confidence, I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing today.”
The result? An app that touches on a need Walker sees missing on current social media.
“I think people really crave authenticity. Products need to be built on some understanding of human psychology; on something that targets a nerve. Products that do that well have a great chance of succeeding.”