Welcome to the ultimate distillation of all the most evil social networking practices to have emerged over the past couple of years: Unvarnished, a website where complete strangers can set up your "profile" and mock you before potential employers.
TechCrunch's Evelyn Rusli calls Unvarnished "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place For Defamation." That's clever and fun, but we think this cuts more cleanly to the chase of what Unvarnished really is: A digital extortion racket.
The idea behind Unvarnished is to cross the anonymous pompous idiocy of Yelp with the overserious "professional"ism of LinkedIn. In other words, it's a way to vent extremely bitchy accusations over matters expressly labeled as Very Serious, i.e. one's career.
But wait, there's more: Unvarnished also bullies you into joining. Anyone can set up a "profile" for you and start venting anonymous "feedback" about your career. You can eventually "claim" this profile, but only by joining Unvarnished. Get it? Join Unvarnished or have no control over your so-called "profile," complete with anonymous bitching underneath it.
Unvarnished is hardly the first instance of people freely insulting one another on the Web, of course. See, for example, the comments section on this very site. Basically the entire internet, outside of sites you own, is a place where people can say what they want about you and you have no recourse, other than (sometimes) taking them to court.
No, what makes Unvarnished more despicable than other anonymous forums, or other websites that coerce you into joining, is the highfalutin' role the site is trying to fashion for itself, at the center of professional networking and careerbuilding. When LinkedIn tries to puff itself up with the old smoke and mirrors of being for "professionals" and "executives" and otherwise Important and Serious folks, at least it's just in the service of trying to scam people out of a little cash for the service of hosting resumés on the Web (the incremental cost of which is infinitely tiny). When Unvarnished puffs itself up in the same way, it does so in order to actually hold people's careers hostage. It might not pull off that trick, but that's the goal.
Of course, Unvarnished is no threat to anyone unless it can attract users. So the best thing to do is to not talk about it. But that train has already left the station, and that might be the scariest thing about the would-be social network: It might take off not despite the fact that it's so repulsively evil, but because of it.
Below: One Unvanished profile, via TechCrunch.