Gab is the new guy on the social media scene, and is positioning itself as a free-speech alternative to Twitter. Andrew Torba founded Gab due in part to recent allegations of left wing bias at Facebook (trending topics, page bans) and Twitter (shadowbans, Milo’s suspension).
The Technical Aspects of Gab
Gab is less than a month old, so the developers haven’t implemented some features yet. The most noticeable one is the incomplete implementation of AJAX (the code that lets you load more HTML content without refreshing the page, e.g. Google Maps). You have to manually reload the page in order to see new posts. However, you do get on-the-fly notifications when someone follows you or upvotes one of your posts. All things considered, the skeleton of the site is up and running very well.
As an alternative to Twitter, there are numerous parallel features. Instead of retweets, there are reposts. Instead of likes, there are upvotes and downvotes. Hashtags are still in use (#IntroduceYourself is good when you’re getting started).
There are some negatives that come up when comparing it to Twitter. For example, if you do a Google search for “Gab,” the only entry about the site on the first page is a Breitbart article. You can’t search for usernames and posts in Google. It took a while for me to get used to the minimalist format, since I’m used to using Tweetdeck. That said, most of those gripes are because the site is still very new, and because of personal attachment to advanced features of Twitter.
Before I move on, I want to highlight the “View as” feature. If you go to another user’s page, and click “View as,” you can see the posts of people they are following. This is a great way to preview users you are interested in following. Additionally, you won’t need to blindly follow a ton of people like those Twitter “food porn” accounts.
The User Base
The user base (known as the #GabFam) thus far is very friendly. I think part of that is because most Gabbers are right-wingers disillusioned with Twitter. When you bring many like-minded individuals together, you’re not going to see many fights early on (unless you get libertarians discussing whether child-spanking violates the NAP). I’ve seen plenty of shitposting, and only one instance of shitflinging.
With regards to handling bad apples,
there are no block or report functions on Gab, there is an option to flag posts, which will report the post in question to the Gab support team (NB: This feature went live after this post was originally written and scheduled for publishing). Additionally, you can modify the “Self censorship settings.” Here you have options to mute specific users or words from appearing in your feed. This addresses one of the biggest critiques of Twitter: they have a top-down, selective approach to enforcement when it is best to let users decide what they want to see.
Unlike Twitter, Gab has a short and specific set of guidelines: no illegal porn, no threats of violence/terrorism, and no exposure of personal information. Also, “be nice and kind to one another. We’re all human.”
Gab has a small user base, and still has a lot of room to grow. It has some kinks to iron out, but that’s what the early testing phase is for. Now is the perfect time to build an audience on their site.
You can follow me on Gab, my username is @rob_sterling. You can also join my email list below, in case you miss when I share a new post on Gab.
Now I just need WordPress to add a Gab icon to the Customizer…