EXCLUSIVE: Console’s Chris Castig on Building Web3’s Discord-Killer
Discord is broken. Console is here to replace it. We hear from Console’s Co-Founder Chris Castig to learn how he’s fixing Web3 social media.
Web3 revolves around two social media platforms; Twitter and Discord.
The first is in the midsts of the most tumultuous time in its existence thanks to Elon Musk, whilst the second is riddled with so many issues that it’s borderline unsafe for the NFT community to use.
Console isn’t aiming to compete with Discord; it’s looking to confine it to the history books.
Built from the ground-up to serve the needs and ideals of Web3, can Console be our saving grace from Web2’s social media overlords? I sat down with their Co-Founder, Chris Castig, to learn more.
John: Discord has seen exponential growth in recent years, becoming the de-facto home for the vast majority of NFT communities. What does Console do differently, and how do you plan to shift the focus of both creators and collectors from Discord to Console?
Chris: Our mission with Console is to build the world’s greatest group chat app. Discord was made for live gaming, not community growth. It’s noisy, and full of spam. We see a huge opportunity to help creators and NFT communities alike.
Console isn’t just a “Web3 Discord,” it’s much more. Console is a cleaner and more focused experience for onboarding, managing and communicating with your community. We understand communities.
For example, onboarding is a huge problem for NFT communities. Many community managers have reported to us that they’ve seen a lot of excitement from new members right after an NFT mint. The problem is that as soon as these newcomers arrive in Discord, they’re overwhelmed by noisy chatter and a lack of clarity about the project. On Console, we’ve thought deeply about onboarding. We have token-gating and roles built right into the app, as well as token-gated Notion-style docs, events, and more.
1/ Welcome to Console!
We’re building the Web3 Discord.
Decentralized, open-source, secure, and community owned.
Want to know more? Let’s dive in 👇🧵
— Console 💜 ✨ (@consoledao) June 6, 2022
What are your thoughts on the current social media landscape? Do you have any particular thoughts on Elon Musk’s approach at Twitter, or Meta’s aspirations in the VR/metaverse space?
Elon Musk has called himself a “free speech absolutist.” He’s reinstated over 12,000 banned accounts, and just this week he released a tool that lets Twitter users know if their account has been shadow-banned and why. And yet at the same time, he’s decided to ban a cohort of users including journalists and accounts like Mastadon, which offer a threat to his business.
Elon buying Twitter is a cautious tale of extreme centralization. We might be hopeful that Elon fixes Twitter, and yet at the same time, we should be terrified that one person now controls the data and speech of billions of people. This could happen to any website or platform on the internet.
In Web2, many of the original founders ran their companies – think Zuck and Jack. Many of us trusted them. At times I trusted their vision and believed they had our best interests at hand. Because they created the platform, being on their platform felt like being a guest in the house they’d built. But what happens long term? What happens after someone new takes over – someone who may or may not have the user’s best interests in mind?
The perils of centralized control. This is what the world will learn in the 2020s, and it’s why the Elon/Twitter story will be seen as the spark for why users move to Web3.
In my eyes, the Metaverse – and Meta, the company – are more about VR than about Web3. I was skeptical of Meta when Mark announced the name change in 2021, but just last month I was able to see a few prototypes for VR projects coming out of Meta that show promise. One that caught my eye was the potential for “Zoom” conference calls in VR where you could see the faces, body language, and expressions of everyone in the room.
Part of Discord’s success has been its open policy towards third-party bots, tools, programs and more. We understand that Console is open source, but what is your ethos regarding developers who wish to build external software that integrates with Console?
One of the issues with Discord is that they allow bots for NFT and web wallet verification. Using bots for verification is dangerous because it can very easily be compromised, as we’ve seen with the hundreds of hacks and scams in the past year on Discord. At Console, we’ve built verification into our app. Communities can use our token-gated rooms, channels, documents and more. Because these features are built into our app, they dramatically lower the threat of potential hacks.
Therefore, on Console, we won’t have bots for NFT verification. But we will have app integrations. At the moment we’re working closely with a handful of developers interested in building integrations, and we’d love to hear from anyone else excited to add integrations to our ecosystem.
console admins choose community gating rules:
▫️.eth — anyone with a .eth (ens)
▪️.btc — anyone with a .btc (bns)
▫️nft — anyone w/ a certain nft
▪️tokens — anyone w/ a # of tokens
▫️wallet — anyone connecting w/metamask, hiro wallet, etc.
we can’t wait to see you on console ✨ pic.twitter.com/wEdU2zBPwW
— Console 💜 ✨ (@consoledao) November 24, 2022
Both Discord and Telegram have a serious problem with bots. What steps have you taken to ensure that all users on Console are authentic? Can users expect fewer unwanted interactions, and control of who they interact with and when?
Increasing focus and reducing spam is #1 to us at Console. Our main goal is creating a clean, fun and focused experience for users. Nothing can destroy focus more than spam and fake accounts.
As I’ve mentioned, we’ve built NFT verification natively in our app. We don’t use bots – and because of that, it’s much more difficult for hackers to game and exploit loopholes. I believe this will make a huge difference.
Beyond that, friction is key. Console integrates verifiable user domain names like ENS (.eth) and BNS (.btc); with Lens (.lens), Farcaster, SOL (.sol) and more coming soon.
Right now on social media, email addresses are free to spin up, and therefore they’re the trojan horse of spam on social media. Encouraging community members to purchase a ENS name at $5/year adds a tiny bit of friction that I believe will reduce 80% of spam – because the same people doing the spamming won’t be able to afford $5 every time they spin up a bot and get banned.
On Twitter, you’ve mentioned that; “Chat conversations and select file storage will not be fully decentralized in order to optimize for scale and speed”. Could you unpack this reasoning further, and are there any wider considerations with regards to fully decentralizing this data in future?
Our goal with Console is to reach sufficient decentralization, which basically means that two users should be able to find each other and communicate on the network even if the network goes down. To reach that sufficient decentralization today has a much clearer path than just decentralizing everything for the sake of absolute decentralization.
I’m really inspired by the work of the team at Protocol Labs, who have built IPFS and Filecoin. I think there’s a great chance they’ll lead the way for decentralized file storage in the future. At the same time, from what I’ve seen this past year, the tech doesn’t seem to be at the level where it’s possible to a) decentralize an entire tech stack, b) with low latency, and c) then scale it to millions of people.
Maybe we’ll get there one day, but it seems we’re not there yet. So in the meantime, working towards sufficient decentralization seems the most realistic, and well… sufficient.
Post-launch, you aim to hand control of Console to the community via ConsoleDAO. Do you have a timescale in mind for this?
ConsoleDAO will happen gradually. Anyone who is excited about co-creating the future of online communities should stay tuned to our Twitter and join our Twitter AMA’s every Monday @consoledao. Beyond that, next month we’ll start opening up some exclusive spots to join us on Console.
In short; why should the Web3 community choose Console over Discord?
Console is a cleaner, more secure, community chat platform. We’re built on Web3 principles of transparency, decentralization and NFT ownership.
The first handful of communities that switch from Discord to Console will be given the opportunity to co-create the future of Console alongside myself and our team — we are very active collaborators with everyone currently using Console. In addition, we’ll be dishing out love to all our early adopter communities in the future with special whitelist opportunities for Console drops. We’re incredibly excited about the opportunity to build this community together!
Web3-native social media platforms have been in high-demand within the NFT community for well over a year, so the arrival of Console will be heralded as a long-awaited blessing for many.
Any NFT netizen will tell you; Discord has a lot of shortfalls. On paper, Console looks to have solved the vast majority of them. In practice? Let’s see – initial feedback from beta testers is sounding very promising.
Chris gets it. He’s realised what can be made better, worked on the solutions, and rallied the power of the community to make it all come together. Want my advice? Grab any opportunity you can to experience Console – you won’t be turning back.
To learn more about Console and apply for the Beta, visit their website, follow their Twitter, and read their initial announcement.