by Brett Stevens on February 7, 2018
Gab.ai made waves in Silicon Valley by being outside Silicon Valley, both in physical location and mental state. Instead of trying to make walled gardens where people could experience digital safe spaces, Gab aimed to re-create the Wild West of the early internet, where there was always something shocking — and actually useful, non-Crowd-converged information — around every corner.
Now, Gab hopes to make waves again with an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) and new censorship-resistant, blockchain-inspired P2P protocol known as The Exodus Protocol. As Gab explains:
Our vision is to evolve beyond one application by empowering developers from around the world to build on top of an open peer-to-peer social media protocol. We are calling this the Exodus Protocol and will be building on top of existing open sourced peer-to-peer technology to create a new peer-to-peer social media protocol of our own. We recognize that existing blockchain technology has many limitations including latency, cost, scalability, and a rapidly evolving ecosystem. While we are excited by the future potential of many projects in the blockchain space, we believe that building on top of existing peer-to-peer protocols such as the Dat Project, IPFS, and existing cryptographic peer-to-peer protocols are the best immediate path forward to getting the Exodus Protocol off the ground.
Peer-to-peer connections and exchanges of value are paramount to our vision for the Exodus Protocol. With this in mind, we’ve determined that an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) is the crowdfunding approach that aligns most directly with Gab’s market offering. We believe that, like many of our users, investors in Gab will be supportive of a crowdfunding campaign that champions a decentralized and truly democratic approach to raising capital. The crypto community inherently understands the importance of defending a free and open exchange of ideas on the web. Our aim is to empower everyone, not simply VCs or the 1%, to participate in our ICO. Unlike many ICOs, Gab has an existing product, customers, brand, and track record of success. We are seeking partners who share our longterm vision for the future and want to help us build a protocol that defends the freedom we love for generations to come.
The primary objective of this ICO fundraising campaign is to establish an Open Developer Ecosystem for the Exodus Protocol. We will follow these key steps to make this happen:
- Incentivizing developers to build on top of the Exodus Protocol
- Recruiting select developers who have been scorned by ‘Big Social’
- Providing an open source protocol that any developer can contribute to or build on
The Exodus Protocol stands for bringing people together of all races, religions, and creeds who share in the common ideals of Western values around individual liberty and the free exchange of ideas.
When the internet was first introduced to consumers, it represented a radical departure from the paradigm to which they were accustomed: “channels” on a one-way medium, such as how television was beamed to their homes and they could choose what to watch out of what was available at the time from the large corporations and government that provided it as what were effectively monopolies.
By contrast, the internet operated in three dimensions. The user was the channel, and selected information from what was available 24-7; as the famous saying goes, the internet also “routes around” damage or obstructions, so if something was not available one place, it popped up in another.
In an echo of what would be later called “peer to peer” technology, the internet operated on the principle that any computer on the net would forward little bits of information called packets to any other, so that if one computer was unavailable, others would send the information along so it reached its destination. This was the opposite of a single broadcaster offering channels.
Industry hated this model, as did most consumers. They wanted something easy to tune into. For the smarter consumers, the internet was a lifeline that saved them from being enslaved to the same lowest common denominator stuff that won out because the most warm bodies thought it was fine.
That old internet provided better information than we could find anywhere else. Professors, lone inventors, radical dissidents, random geniuses, and other content creators invested many hours into constructing web pages offering a wide variety of information and perspectives. This made the internet the greatest research library in history.
This in turn caused collapse among industries based on scarcity. Cookbooks made money because finding recipes was hard; when everyone could slap their grandma’s orange chocolate chip cookies recipe online, the cookbooks became less valuable. Movie and music reviews exerted Darwinistic pressure on the industry by quickly calling out the worst of the worst.
Technical information, hacks and knowledge about products, and descriptions of basically every place on Earth hit the internet. This both democratized knowledge by making it freely available and encouraged elite contributors to put their viewpoints out there, which allowed regular people to make connections between different ideas and enhance their own understanding.
Its darkside was that it killed all secret places, local culture, and exclusive activities by revealing them to people across the globe. The best local bar was now an article on a large website; your favorite record store became an eBay superstar; those out-of-the-way places to take a date were now flooded with people who read about them on AOL or Yelp.
This democratization killed off industries based on the “channel” paradigm. Your travel agent was a channel; now, you just went online to book hotels and flights. Manufacturers were a channel; instead of using their booklets, you found someone else who had fixed the gadget and took their advice. Experts and gatekeepers of all kind were under assault.
Around the year 2000, industry finally found a way to recapture the internet: centralize it. Instead of having consumers go to many different sites, have them do all their searches through Google, read all their factual data from Wikipedia, buy all their products from Amazon, and spend all their time on Facebook and Twitter, which shot up in the Google results and so quickly crowded out other, better information just like Wikipedia did.
It took another decade, but soon the “nu-internet” had eclipsed the old. There was no point spending hours creating content to put on an independent website when no one would see it because it got pushed to page seven of the Google search results by Facebook pages, Wikipedia nodes, Amazon products, and iTunes offerings. The old content dried up; the new stuff, which was pulped and sugared like baby food, took over.
This even affected intelligent users because they simply could not find their way to the “underground” content outside the Googlesphere. Instead, they had to hack through the same content that everyone else had, and this meant that this content had to be made inoffensive, to keep the consumers happy, and manipulative, to keep money flowing into the FAANG companies.
While this meant a decrease in the diversity of the internet and the loss of much of its great information, companies loved it: they had greater control over their brands, and now they had the exclusive power of “channels” again. Consumers went to a handful of sites about any product or brand, and never looked beyond it, so they could be controlled.
At the same time, many of us were seeing a trope we recognized from the early days of computing: yesterday’s heroes become tomorrow’s villains, mainly because once a company succeeds and hires lots of people, it needs to squeeze more money out of its product and it does that by manipulating consumers to use its products more and avoid those of its competitors.
The Google ecosystem, once legendary for email and a search engine that indexed more pages than any other, now became a way to force people to use Google’s advertising, to manipulate search results to benefit advertisers, and to crowd out any pages that did not follow the Google way. Even their recent switch to demanding encrypted pages reflected a desire to exclude non-conformists.
As a result, the big story of the 2010s has been the revolt against the newly-centralized internet, and a desire to return to the days when choice and actual diversity defined the internet, so that people are again incentivized to put quality content online. Gab, Urbit, BitTorrent and other decentralized, peer-to-peer notions are leading that charge.
Combining antitrust law with libertarian ideals of freedom of association leading to competition, Gab addresses this change as the future of the internet, which as large giants like Facebook and Google reveal themselves to be just as manipulative as the old monopolists, and compulsively forcing us into “channels” instead of three-dimensional user space, seems necessary:
Google’s exclusion of Gab from the Google Play store in April 2017 was arbitrary, anti-competitive, and in clear violation of federal antitrust laws.
This analysis was made under the narrowest and most conservative interpretation of the Sherman Act, rather than under any broad view of the market power created by network effects or by making free speech an intrinsic good. Nonetheless, it’s impossible not to consider the larger issues of internet censorship.
Gab has been directly impacted by the digital gatekeepers of the centralized internet as we know it, and we take this to be a dangerous attack on free speech across the board. Those who support free speech on social media should support the Exodus Protocol as a revolutionary new means of communication and connection protected from censorship, regulatory interference and/or intimidation.
While Gab’s fight against BigTech’s control on speech may not immediately topple the giants, it is a critical first step in showing that these companies cannot arbitrarily use their market power to stamp out pro-free speech competitors.
As mainstream social networks continue to censor certain views and crack down on what they choose to be ‘objectionable content,’ consumers’ hunger for alternative platforms will only continue to rise. In addition, the trend of ‘cutting the cord’ will also continue as the popularity of streaming content over the internet increases.
The Exodus Protocol is well-positioned to outlive, outlast and benefit from this fragmentation of the mainstream social networking ecosystem into smaller niche communities with shared values and ideals.
They point to the rise in ad blocking as a symptom of the need for this change, but we might also point to the flight away from Facebook and Twitter by many of their more advanced users, creating a “MySpace cycle” where companies die as their most savvy users flee once the crowd arrives.
The internet succeeded, and by succeeding, it failed, because in attracting large industry and a clueless consumer base, it removed what made it successful and replaced it with what people were familiar with. That excluded those who form the cutting edge of user experience, and catapulted users back into the bad old days.
Gab is attempting to fix this with its social media platform and new features that advanced users desire:
This past week we filed our Offering Circular with the SEC for review, becoming one of the first companies in the world to do so. We expect to hear back from them sometime over the next several weeks.
Our Testing The Waters campaign has reached a phenomenal $4.7 million dollars in reservations for our ICO out of our goal of $10 million total. This is truly a people-powered revolt against Big Tech and Silicon Valley and we are excited to continue on this journey with you to defend individual liberty, free speech, and the free flow of information on the internet.
In the last quarter alone we have shipped many new product improvements and features. We’ve also expanded our engineering and design teams and are in the process of revamping the entire user interface of Gab to make it easier to use for everyone.
Here are just some of the many things we have shipped this quarter:
- The ability for creators to make money via tips/subs
- Longer posts up to 3,000 characters, formatting (bold, italic, underline)
- Totally overhauled Android app
- A brand new mobile site experience
- Favorite topics feature
- Revamped search feature
- A new Gab Shop with stickers, shirts, and more
We also recently passed a big milestone of 400,000 total Gab accounts.
In my view, the social media site is a jump-start to something much larger, which is a decentralized internet where independent contributors can be recognized outside of social media sites, which end up being conformist by their very nature as mass media with the ensuing demands for content to be inoffensive and dumbed down.
This could be the birth of a useful internet again.