Gas was exploding so Discord bought it

Discord logo superimposed onto a background of $100 bills
(Image credit: Discord & QuinceCreative - Pixabay)

Gas is an anonymous social media app, launched in August 2022, that is targeted at American teenagers and has seen widespread adoption. The app has been #1 in the App Store for several months now, with founder Nikita Bier saying in November that "one in three teens" in the United States had installed the app, before in late December revealing Gas had achieved $6 million in sales and 10 million downloads.

Discord liked the look of that, and has announced it's bought Gas outright after a scant five months:

"Today, we’re excited to share that Discord is acquiring Gas, the popular poll-based social app that lets friends share compliments with one another," reads Discord's statement. "Its tremendous success shows the opportunity that exists in creating a playful yet meaningful place for young people. Gas’ founders have a proven track record of creating exciting apps and experiences, and we’re thrilled to work with their team to take things to the next level".

That proven track record part is pretty interesting because there's a warning in it for Discord. Gas shares a lot with an app called tbh that was developed by some of the same people before being sold to Meta (then Facebook) in 2017 for $100 million. Less than a year later, in July 2018, tbh was discontinued due to low user numbers.

Perhaps Facebook was just killing off a competitor, or perhaps tbh was terribly managed by the company after the acquisition, or perhaps that's just the nature of popularity among a teen audience. What is big now is unlikely to stay big long.

Either way, the similarities are striking. The app's name comes from the slang "gassing up", meaning to compliment someone, and the big thing Gas does is allow users to participate in anonymous polls involving pre-written compliments about their peers. Only positive statements ever appear on Gas.

Individuals who win a poll get a "flame", and the way it monetises users is information: You can pay a $6.99 subscription to unlock 'God Mode' which allows you to see hints about who voted for who. Sounds like just what a high school environment needs!

"Gas is all about uplifting & empowering each other through positive affirmations," said Discord founder Jason Citron, "something that I think the internet needs more of! Looking forward [to] taking things to the next level together."

Gas will remain as a standalone app, with the team joining Discord. The chat service's momentum seems unstoppable and it's had no problem raising oodles of cash, to the extent it was fighting off a $12 billion takeover from Microsoft in 2020, at which time Citron observed: "there’s this big trend [of people shifting away from] broadcast wide-open social media communication services to more small, intimate places [...] We’re a meaningful part of how that’s evolving on the internet."

Discord's 2022 turned out to be more about the rebirth of the humble forum, but Gas certainly seems to fit with the trend Citron is identifying. Ultimately, though, you know what all this money means: Please enjoy Discord while it's still good.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."