Ads Are Over if You Want It: Join for Free co-founders Bryan Berg and Dalton Caldwell co-founders Bryan Berg and Dalton Caldwell

Ads are the worst thing about the web. They ruin it. They dictate the form and content of nearly everything we do online, which is why it's all so desperate and weird.

In an ad-supported world, the only viable strategy is to scream for people's attention, to interrupt them, to seduce them, and then not even to let them stay and feel or think anything. They must be hustled on to something else.

Advertising turns our privacy into currency. Since we don't pay with our money, we pay with our thoughts and actions, showing advertisers what we want, how we behave, what interests us, and where and with whom we spend our time. Ad-supported social networks encourage us to spy on our friends.

It doesn't have to be that way.

Online social networking is important. It enables us to grow, navigate, and learn from a global society. The ability to communicate brief messages with anyone in real time is going to define the next phase of humanity. The ad-driven social networks we use now are compromised. Instead, we should be using

Paying users can now invite you to join for free, so you can experience a social web without any advertising. You'll only see posts from people you want to see. Your data will always belong to you, you control how it's shared, and you can export or delete it at any time. is part of a better web is a net(work) for apps. It's the infrastructure. Software developers can build whatever kinds of experiences they can dream of on top of it. At its most basic, it's like Twitter with a few more characters. But people are building chat rooms, blogging, podcasting, even games on top of it. is paid for by members and software developers who want its advanced features. For instance, recently gave paying members 10GB of personal storage space for apps to use for photos, videos, podcasts, blog posts, whatever uses developers can invent for it (free accounts get 500MB). Developers pay to have access to the network's vast capabilities, so they can build new businesses.

It's the model used by Evernote, Flickr, and Dropbox, which are — not coincidentally — three of my favorite things about the Internet.

All paying users, of which there are over 20,000, are paying to make the place great, and it can't be great without everyone else there talking to each other, sharing ideas, links, and media. So, as of today, you can use the basic service for free. I urge you to join and invite all your friends. There are still plenty of great user names left.

For now, you need an invitation to get a free account, but I've got a bunch. Ask me for one via my contact form, and I'll hook you up if I've got any left.

I'm @ablaze (user #16!) on, and @thedailyportal is on there, too.

A web of trust

As the service has grown from a photo-finish crowd-funding campaign to a small but thriving network of paying early adopters, I've gotten to know founder Dalton Caldwell pretty well. I didn't always make this clear when I wrote for ReadWrite, but I'm a pretty harsh judge of character, especially with technologists. I'm protective of humanity's future, and I want the people building it to be trustworthy. I trust Dalton. I've talked to him enough to know that for sure.

He's doing something that's unpopular in Silicon Valley because the ad-based web has been very good to a few people there. But he's doing it anyway. Just look around the ad-supported web and see how desperate everything has gotten. Then come look at and see the friendliness and optimism. That's why Dalton is doing what he's doing.

Now that there are free accounts, the tone will change. It will be more like real, public life. But that's good. The beauty of the web is the power of the commons. is no longer a gated community. Now it's a social software republic with a strong constitution.

For the curious: more of my posts about

Here are the key stories I've written about in chronological order if you want a more in-depth explanation of why I think it's important:

Finally, here's a long video interview I did with Dalton about the far reaches of where is headed: