Discord is paying for teens to give each other compliments
The Discord app is seen on an iPhone in this photo illustration in Warsaw, Poland on April 3, 2021.
Jaap Arriens | NurPhoto | Getty Images
We’ve been here before and we’ve done it before when it comes to social media: a fast-growing new app is giving online users a way to share inspiration and encouragement. At some point in the history of most social media companies, dating all the way back to Facebook’s role in global “democratization” during the Arab Spring, early social media success has focused on positive effects.
The world has come a long way since the Arab Spring and through many reckonings with the benefits and risks of social media, including the potential impacts on adolescent health and wellbeing. Seattle Public Schools recently filed a lawsuit against TikTok, Meta, Snap and others, alleging a youth mental health crisis caused by social media.
Social media is also facing one of its greatest legal challenges of all time, with the Supreme Court set to consider whether Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act should grant such companies the immunity from liability claims for user content, as has been the case throughout their ascent.
So there’s good reason for the next big thing in social media to be all about positivity, and here we are again, with social media company Discord announcing the acquisition of Gas this week, a social media company fast growing plant designed to promote positive affirmations.
“Gas is about uplifting and empowering each other through positive affirmations. Its tremendous success shows the opportunity that exists in creating a playful yet meaningful place for young people,” Discord said in a post from blog about the deal. The terms of the contract are not disclosed.
Gas allows users to anonymously share compliments with each other via polls, or as TheVerge noted in a report on the deal, “The app is designed for anonymous compliments and positive affirmations or, as children say so, to gas your friends.”
The app has gained popularity among teenagers. In just two months since its launch in August, Gas has overtaken TikTok and BeReal in Apple’s App Store’s free apps ranking, reaching 1 million daily active users. It was crowned “the most popular app of the moment” by the Wall Street Journal. It had 30,000 new users per hour in October.
Gas has already had its first problems – it was caught, unjustly, in a sex trafficking hoax this fall, which forced its founder to react after three percent of users deleted their accounts.
But Gas continued to grow as a place for teens to engage with their peers, amassing 7.4 million installs.
If you haven’t heard of Gas, it didn’t come out of nowhere. Its founder Nikita Bier previously sold tbh, another survey-based app, to Facebook in 2017, but the app was shut down within a year due to low usage. Nonetheless, Discord said in the blog post that “Gas founders have a proven track record of creating exciting apps and experiences.”
Snapchat’s platform offers several anonymous survey apps, including Yolo and LMK, where users can ask their friends questions who can then answer anonymously – and have also proven to be far from immune to polls. abuse. Last year, Snap banned anonymous messaging apps.
While anonymous features can pose a specific form of user safety risk and increase harassment, Gas says it avoids these obstacles through surveys consisting of Gas-approved compliments. These compliment prompts prevent users from creating their own polls or sending direct messages, which could include harmful content.
Gas himself explains in his app’s description that “Gas is where friends tell you what they like about you. And no, they won’t report you like other anonymous apps. How it works: 1) Join your school 2) Add friends 3) Take surveys 4) Get flames when chosen.”
Discord has had its own share of security issues associated with its success with a younger demographic, with reports of harassment on the platform increasing in recent years. The company has invested heavily to combat this problem, acquiring Sentropy, an AI-powered software company that focuses on combating online abuse and harassment. In its latest transparency report, published in December 2022, the company said it disabled 42,458 accounts and took down 14,451 servers for child safety violations during the third quarter of 2022, a 92% decrease in the number of accounts. deactivated compared to the previous quarter.
Entering the social app scene in 2015 as a platform for gamers to chat with each other, Discord has expanded beyond its roots as an alternative to uneven Skype chats for gamers. . CNBC Disruptor 50 has twice gone beyond its primarily gaming-based uses to a more general voice chat platform and live-streaming capabilities, while allowing users to monetize their servers.
As social audio exploded, Discord released Stage Channels in 2021, giving users a new way to organize and host big audio events. In July, it released Threads, a way to derive a conversation from a channel’s main feed without removing it from the channel. The company also offers premium membership features, allowing community creators and owners to require membership to access all or part of their server, tiered benefits, and analytics on member engagement. .
Microsoft reportedly made a bid for the company at one point, but no deal was reached.
Discord, unlike first-generation social media giants, doesn’t make money from ads, giving it something else in common with Gas beyond its focus on a younger demographic. Gas earned its nearly $7 million in user spend from paid subscription features like “God Mode” which provides users with clues about who gave them compliments.
For now, Gas will work as a standalone app, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of polls becoming a new method of communication on Discord.
“We’re always working to create an inclusive world where no one feels like an outsider and we’re excited to welcome Gas to the Discord community as our next step in realizing that vision,” Discord said in the blog post.
One of the toughest tasks businesses will find, as many social media apps have done before – keeping the story positive.
CNBC is now accepting nominations for the 2023 Disruptor 50 list — our 11th annual look at the most innovative venture-backed companies. Learn more about eligibility and how to submit an application by Friday, February 17.