Created by Noam Bardin, the CEO of Google-owned Waze for 12 years, Post’s ambitions are certainly grand and hark nostalgically to a (possibly imaginary) time when social media was more civil and less divisive.
“Remember when social media was fun, introduced you to big ideas and cool people, and actually made you smarter?” Bardin wrote in his first missive. “Remember when it didn’t waste your time and make you angry or sad? When you could disagree with someone without being threatened or insulted? We want to bring that back with Post.”
So, how will Post actually accomplish this? It’s hard to say at the moment as there’s an enormous waiting list (at the time of writing, we’re currently 124,388th in the queue), but it sounds like it will be what you would get if you mixed Twitter, Medium, and Tumblr in a blender, with a little filter-bubble cleansing seasoning for taste.
Like Twitter, it’s designed to encourage conversation between friends, strangers, experts, and leaders without barriers. You can write text posts that can be liked, commented upon, shared, and reposted with or without comment.
Unlike Twitter, these can be of any length, which introduces much-needed nuance, but possibly at the expense of mass appeal. While the original 140-character limit (later raised to 280) was a side effect of the plan to let people tweet via SMS, it actually proved a useful restriction, forcing some much-needed brevity on blowhards.
Post also has the ambition of breaking echo chambers by allowing users to “buy individual articles from different premium news providers”, and “not just the ones you’re subscribed to”.
Crucially, Post appears to be trying to straddle the fine line between respecting free speech while preventing things from descending into the kind of nastiness that ultimately limits it by chasing moderate voices away.
“We believe in freedom of speech and will oppose any government’s attempt to censor speech on our platform,” Bardin writes. “However, we have rules, which we plan to rigorously enforce via content moderation, with the help of our community.”
Rigorous enforcement of content moderation is exactly what advertisers look for, to make the wild west of social-media sites — where anybody can say anything — a little bit more brand safe. But Bardin is critical of social-media companies’ dependence on advertising for survival, due to the pursuit of clicks, regardless of the damage caused.
“Many of today’s ad-based platforms rely on capturing attention at any cost — sowing chaos in our society, amplifying the extremes, and muting the moderates,” he continued. “Post is designed to give the voice back to the sidelined majority; there are enough platforms for extremists, and we cannot relinquish the town square to them.”
The reference to the “town square” feels like a not-so-subtle dig at Elon Musk who, ahead of his takeover of Twitter, called it the “de facto public town square”. Since taking charge, he has reversed a handful of high-profile Twitter bans including that of Donald Trump, and more seem likely to follow.
While many tweeters are expressing concern about the direction, a mass exodus is currently hamstrung by the lack of a single obvious alternative to coalesce around. Depending on your perspective, Post’s arrival could be the obvious answer for disillusioned tweeters or muddy the waters yet further.