Gab is the new upstart competitor to Facebook and Twitter with a strong emphasis on free speech that was opened nearly four weeks ago and is currently in a private beta. I’ve had my profile for nearly three weeks and I have to say I like it. Gab most resembles Twitter, which seems to be the company Gab’s CEO Andrew Torba is most passionate about destroying, in that it focuses on users following one another to see their content come up on your home page with a trending topics feature to let you know what fellow gabbers are talking about.
It is different from Twitter, however, in that it seems largely, almost exclusively, to consist of conservatives who are sympathetic to the so-called “alt-right.” Right now Gab is essentially where angsty conservatives go to rage, and that’s ok. The site isn’t even a month old and boasts roughly 12,000 active accounts with tens of thousands more waiting to get their invite. I suspect that if Gab is still popular in a few years, many of these same 12,000, assuming they’re still active, will look on these as being the good old days.
I personally would prefer if Gab became more like Twitter in the sense that, while maintaining its commitment to free speech, it’s appeal would broaden to the general public just looking to network with their friends and to journalists, politicians, government officials, etc… I would also prefer if Twitter became more like Gab in the sense that it was less prone to bias against its own users and banning them for expressing unpopular opinions. Twitter and Gab competing against one another can only be good for both of them, and their user base. I personally want them both to succeed.
I do have some problems with Gab, however. I won’t bother listing the features that aren’t currently available since, again, the site isn’t even a month old and is in the private beta stage of development. That said, I do not care for the Reddit-style upvoting and downvoting feature on people’s posts. As a company that prides itself on giving a platform to people who have been silenced on other websites for their views, I wouldn’t think they’d want to include a feature where the mob can essentially bury any post they dislike.
Another problem I have is how Gab promotes right-wing pseudo-celebrities who have accounts on the platform like Milo Yiannopoulos. I should clarify, it simply annoys me that Gab promotes that Milo has an account on Gab, because Milo sent one gab almost three weeks ago and hasn’t been seen since. I don’t care if you promote these people if they’re actually active, but Milo clearly has no interest in Gab right now so let’s quit pretending he does.
Regardless, while I’m hoping that the user-base expands from vulgarity, memes, trolling, and the like to more substantive content sooner rather than later, Gab is currently a fun platform, especially if you like mocking the left. I think the thing that Gab has going for it, especially compared to other social media sites like Ello that had a bit of buzz before going nowhere, is that it knows exactly what it is, and, more importantly, the users know exactly what it is. Gab is the place you go for free speech. You can say whatever you want, and the worst that can happen is nobody agrees with you and some people might put you on mute or downvote your posts.
That said, the moment Gab makes a controversial banning, and it will, they had better be ready to be completely transparent about it to their user-base. If their answer ever becomes, “Because we said so,” then they’ll immediately lose what makes them special. I don’t envy them the balancing act they’re inevitably going to have to walk to maintain trust, but I’m hoping they succeed. Competition is a beautiful thing, and I would rather have more options than less.