I was an early adopter of Gab.ai and have been on it for about eight months now. Twitter’s Orwellian SJW policies prompted me to leave their platform. I left happily never to return and toyed with my own microblog (on WordPress) as a means to keep track of articles etc. that interested me. Somewhere along the way, I read something about a platform truly dedicated to free speech (with expected exceptions about threats, illegal activities, and fraudulently impersonating another). I took the leap and gave it a whirl.
Gab.ai really does adhere to full free speech. No opinion is censored. Rather than the staff flunkies (ala Twitter) dictating what you can or cannot say or view, you are entirely in control of that (you can mute/filter users, subjects, hashes, keywords).
Discussion is very open and allows as much engagement as you want. I have also appreciated the larger character count (300). That allows users to put a few more specific thoughts and tends to allow posting of full URLs (rather than the shortened ones) so you know what you’re clicking on.
The platform is clean, easy to read and interact with others. It is continually improving and becoming more user friendly. Developers are very responsive to user suggestions as well.
I’ve had much more engagement on Gab than I ever did on Twitter. Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time there despite not agreeing with many other users (more on that below).
Room For Improvement
I’m not going to go into any technical bugs/dislikes as the platform is still in beta and changing rapidly enough that whatever gripe I put up now will soon be moot or outdated. Rather, I’m going to address potential threats to the success of Gab.
Ironically, the adherence to free speech may be, for now, Gab’s greatest obstacle to overcome. The dominant user group is ‘alt-right’. There is also a contingent of vocal racists (note: some are ‘false flag racists’ who want to discredit Gab) as well as a contingent of Russia-apologists and/or propagandists. Frankly, that is expected as several of those folks are those who’ve been chased off/banned on other sites so, of course, they’ve gravitated where they won’t get kicked off. Thus, a greater than normal user proportion of them are on Gab.
Meh, their presence doesn’t really bother me – Gab allows people to be fully open about who they are so you don’t have to guess (they don’t need to put on a fake veneer to avoid getting booted). As a result, you know who your are talking to, who to avoid and filter out, and who to engage with. Clarity is a good thing and I see that as an potential opportunity to change minds and outlooks (even if it is a long shot).
During my time on Gab I’ve noted other viewpoints joining and slowly beginning to balance the other groups out. However, this influx seems to have plateaued a bit and needs to continue for Gab t have longterm sustainability instead of only being able to draw a niche audience. Plenty of Gab users have noted this and the developers are certainly aware.
Basically, the aforementioned groups can ‘poison the watering hole’ for new users who don’t understand Gab’s mission nor make the connection as to why there currently is a larger than normal proportion of these groups on the site. It’s easy to see the problem but solving it may be a tough nut to crack (I wish I had a suggestion here). If developers can find a solution and entice greater numbers of users, we’ll see the proportion of the above groups dwindle to typical levels.
That briefly sums up my current impression. If free speech appeals to you and nanny organizations controlling content you view/post does not, click here and request an invite. I’ve got plenty right now but give me a couple of days to get it to you as I admittedly stink at checking my inbox.
Final note: I am biased in that I am not a big fan of social media and limit my time on it. I like topic related discussions but even those are best done in person. Real relationships are personal, not digital. I understand that social media may be waning (another possible problem for Gab). That’s a good thing. Hopefully, we all will put priorities where they belong, set aside the gadgets and take the time to actually talk and interact in person family (and friends). There is simply no substitute for such.
UPDATE: Here’s another perspective from a Gab user: Why You Should Join and Use Gab.