Discord Now Owns Gas, But How Long Can the Compliments-Based App For Teens Survive?

Many similar apps, including one created by the same developer in 2017, haven't survived the test of time.

Nikita Bier
Gas creator Nikita Bier. (Linnea Bullion for The Washington Post via Getty Images) The Washington Post via Getty Im

Instant messaging platform Discord acquired Gas, the compliments-based social media app popular among teens, on Jan. 17.

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In October, the app took the No. 1 spot for all apps on Apple’s app store, edging out BeReal, TikTok and Instagram. In Gas, users sign up with their schools and anonymously answer polls prompted by their classmates, with questions like “who has the best laugh?” The app then notifies the winner of the poll. Questions are refreshed every hour, and they are meant to boost users’ confidence—or “gas them up.” Users are also known to post flirty confessions in the polls. The app offers an alternative to the toxic culture that can be found on other social media sites.

But the lifecycle for apps like Gas can be short, said James Cooper, director of Business of Apps, a news and analytics site for the app industry. They are driven by trends, and people get bored, he said. “I’d be surprised if it was still around in a year,” he said.

The sale also happened relatively quickly in the app’s existence. It launched in August, and “the fact that they sold means they probably saw this internally too,” he said.

The idea of an anonymous, confessional social media app isn’t new. Brighten launched in 2014 as an app where users could anonymously compliment each other. Yik Yak lets users anonymously connect with others within a five mile radius. Whisper markets itself as the place to learn secrets. Nikita Bier, who created Gas, also founded a nearly identical app called tbh in 2017, which he sold to Facebook that same year. Tbh has since been shut down, as has Brighten, which suggests Gas might meet a similar fate.

After its purchase, Gas will remain a standalone app, and the company’s team of four will join Discord. “[Gas’] tremendous success shows the opportunity that exists in creating a playful yet meaningful place for young people,” Discord said in a blog post. Discord declined the Observer’s interview request, and Bier did not respond.

The social media market is a competitive space dominated by a handful of platforms, including TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. At the same time, there is still room for new apps to emerge. Discord launched in 2015 but took off only in the last couple years, Cooper said. It has 150 million monthly active users, three times what it had in 2019. BeReal is the most recent industry breakthrough with 73 million monthly active users.

Cooper estimated the app sold for more than $10 million. While the app will remain independent of Discord now, Discord recently announced it will integrate a group of apps into its servers, so it is possible Gas’ polling format will appear in the messaging platform in the future.

Discord Now Owns Gas, But How Long Can the Compliments-Based App For Teens Survive?