Moments ago, Path.to, a gorgeous and simple professional network, opened its doors. It seems that LinkedIn might, at last, have the potential of real competition on its horizon.

We talked to the Path.to team last week, and have had early access to the site since then. We’ve put it through the paces, and like what we see. Unlike LinkedIn, which is a social network for professionals, the Path.to team told TNW that they do not view their product as such. “It’s a network, but it is not a social network,” cofounder Darren Bounds said.

We will get into the features of Path.to in a moment, but what first caught our eye was how pleasant the site design, color scheme, and functions are. People seem to associate ‘professional’ with ‘stodgy and dull.’ Not Path.to. Steve Jobs is often quoted as saying that design is not simply how something looks, but is instead how it works. Path.to has taken that to heart.

Now, let’s get into what the service is, and how it works.

How Path.to works

Unsurprisingly, every Path.to user has their own page. The user’s own profile centers around their core skills, for which they can receive endorsements. Each user can have up to five skills, no more, so they are forced to be selective. Other users can endorse that person in any of their particular skills.

The site collates these endorsements, and then ascribes a ‘level’ to that user’s specific talents. Have four endorsements in C#? You might be given a ‘gold’ ranking for that skill, and so forth. You can request endorsements, which raised our anti-spam hackles, but the Path.to team assured us that it is difficult enough to actually give an endorsement, requiring several clicks by design, that they were not worried too much about the issue.

Each user’s profile is customizable, and can include a variety of different background images. If you want to get a feel for what I mean, imagine that your profile on the site is a professional version of About.me, inside of a networked website. This what the top section of my profile looks like, for reference:

2011 08 30 1058 520x341 Path.to: A new professional network that is a delight to use

All that is nice enough, but what can you do with the service? Path.to is designed for finding talent. A search for ‘Chicago C#’ yields a list of developers of that persuasion in the city, for example. In the future, TNW confirmed, that list will be sortable by the ‘rank’ of those users. In other words, you will be able to search by city and skill, and then filter those however you wish, allowing you to find the best, right away. Need to hire one product manager in DC this month? Path.to will be able to help you find that person. And that leads us to our next section, so let’s get going.

Should you try it?

As with every application review here on TNW, we tell you if, or if not, you should use the product. In regards to Path.to, our opinion is that you should at least give it a spin. Account sign up is rather quick with Facebook and LinkedIn integration, so there is little legwork involved if you want to avoid it.

If you simply don’t want to be active on another network at the moment, and we understand that, Path.to has a feature that you will enjoy. Built in to the service is an analytics layer, allowing you to pop into the site on the occasion, and see how many people have stopped by your profile. It looks like this:

2011 08 30 1048 520x350 Path.to: A new professional network that is a delight to use

With this, you can set up your account and check out, only to return to see if anything interesting is doing. And, frankly, Path.to is a service that has potential. The team’s attention to detail and new take on an old problem is refreshing.

Lingering Questions

That is not to say, in any way, that Path.to is perfect. It isn’t. In fact, through our testing of the service we ran into more than a handful of bugs where things simply didn’t work. That has improved over the past week, but issues undoubtedly remain.

And TNW is yet unsure as to how Path.to will eventually monetize itself. Perhaps it will allow for promoted listings or the like. There are certainly opportunities for the service, if it manages to scale, but for now it remains an open question.

And that is that. If you do try out Path.to, let the rest of us know what you think in the comments.