Sharing this info in case any are interested! I’m there, if you join up, ‘friend/follow’ me! 😀
Freedom of speech — as protected by The First Amendment of the United States Constitution — has been central to America’s philosophy since it’s founding.
Yet, it’s been under attack on social media, in mainstream media and on college campuses.
Twitter has been removing trending hashtags and banning users. YouTube has recently stopped allowing creators with controversial content to monetize their work. Even Apple’s App store is showing partisanship.
For creators who have built their audience and business on these platforms, this is devastating. For readers who value free speech, this is equally devastating.
Rational discourse is essential to surfacing facts and determining public policies and moral philosophies. But with big media and social media companies abandoning any resemblance of bi-partisanship, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for important ideas to be heard.
Fortunately, Gab.ai has comes to the rescue.
It’s a social network that puts free speech at its core.
Gab is founded by Andrew Torba, who was previously Founder and CEO of a Y-Combinator backed adtech company.
Here’s a rundown of the product, its traction so far and the long-term opportunity:
Traction: Rabid early adopters and highly influential creators.
Gab has attracted influential and controversial voices like Mike Cernovich, Paul Joseph Watson, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Stefan Molyneux.
For influential creators who are already very busy, there needs to be a good reason to join a new platform. The fact that they have is a testament to Gab’s value proposition.
And the network is growing like crazy.
The company shared some of their metrics over the weekend:
This is all within weeks of launching — making Gab one of the fastest growing consumer tech startups in history.
In the words of Kanye, “that’s cray-cray!”
Keep in mind they’ve done all this while:
- It doesn’t have nearly the network effect of a site like Twitter to offer its users.
- The product is barely usable and is missing several critical features.
- They’ve done basically zero marketing.
The success so far is a testament to the attractive value proposition they bring to the market.
Product: Twitter + Reddit but with free speech.
“We believe that the only valid form of censorship is self-censorship, an individual’s freedom to opt-out” — Andrew Torba
The product functions much like Twitter (with a touch of Reddit). Users see a stream of “Gabs” by the people they follow. Users can upvote or downvote and the top Gabs of the day are populated in a “Popular” stream.
The “killer app” however is self-censorship. The muted words feature allows you to filter out topics — that way, you won’t see anything that may trigger you.
Gab allows its users to determine what they do and don’t see. This is in contrast to big social sites who are increasingly censoring content from the top down.
However Gab does have some standards. The company’s CEO told Breitbart:
“No illegal pornography, a zero tolerance policy for promoting terrorism or violence, and users are not allowed to post other’s confidential information without their consent.”
Soon after Gab’s launch, Twitter issued a press release saying they are working on the same self-censorship feature. However, Twitter’s dependence on revenue from advertisers make it unlikely to be able to truly enable free speech.
So crazy traction, and attention from Twitter — not too bad for a three-person unfunded startup!
Here are a few other differentiating features on the roadmap:
- Allowing creators to monetize through tipping, donations and subscriptions.
- Many aspects of the platform are open source so that there is full transparency about how they display content.
- The mobile app is on the way.
Marketing: Add content fuel to the social media fire.
Gab’s rapid growth is a living illustration of the possibilities of lower development costs and new distribution opportunities that The Internet has provided.
They’ve narrowed in on their early adopters — free speech activists and conservatives who have faced the brunt of censorship. And now that they’ve validated demand for the product, Gab is poised to throw fuel on the fire.
To continue to grow and reach new user segments, there are several potential strategies. First, they can keep drafting off Twitter — until they get banned. They have a great story and free speech is a hot topic right now (even Hillary Clinton has taken a stab at the “alt-right.”), so public relations can probably provide some short-term boosts.
Over time however, given the nature of their vision — and because of the risks to any business of being dependent on any one platform — it would be beneficial to build up a fully owned platform.
Strategic content marketing could be a great tool to evangelize the importance of free speech, build the brand of the company and the team, connect with more influential people, earn more press coverage and acquire users.
In practice, this means going where their target users already spend time and providing education, news and entertainment in an engaging and provocative way.
I would test out Medium and possibly a podcast to start. Over time, I’d build up a self-hosted blog. Throughout the process, I’d look at the analytics to see what channels and pieces of content work best and double down.
Lastly, email marketing to increase retention and an invite system to increase referrals could be effective.
The Future of Free Speech
The Internet and social media brought with it the promise that anyone with a message — no matter how contrary to the popular narrative — can be heard. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube seem to be aborting this mission.
Gab is picking up where they left off. Instead of just complaining, they’re building a solution.
Gab’s traction shows there is clearly demand for free-speech. People are tired of fearing losing their job or losing friends over their beliefs. And there are so many important challenges facing our society today that need public discussion.
Meanwhile, Twitter’s financial viability is uncertain.
Given the huge and validated market for social media, the rapid growth they’ve seen so far and the importance of free speech, I’m very excited to keep using and following Gab!