An app to take back your mind
Open a portal to an amazing universe of stories, ideas, and people
We’ve built you a brand-new app. While the first Substack app was a simple tool to read all your newsletters in one place, we’re now evolving it to become a portal to an amazing universe of stories, ideas, and people. In the app, you can not only find the latest posts from the writers you love, but also hang out and have fun with the smartest people you know.
This app brings together your subscriptions with an Explore feed of short-form notes and conversations that leads you to wonderful works you never knew existed. It’s a place where you’re in control, your emotions aren’t being gamed by algorithms that seek to exploit your basest instincts, and you can help shape culture by directly supporting the writers and creators you most trust.
It’s the internet, in other words, but not as we have recently known it.
We created Substack because we believe that what you read matters—it affects how you think, influences what you do, and to a large extent shapes who you are. Yet the options we’ve been given as readers on the internet in recent years have been corrosive to good thought, especially as the business models that once undergirded traditional media are starting to fail. In legacy social media, we are pitted against each other and divided into tribes to which we demonstrate allegiance by showing how little regard we have for those who might otherwise be our friends and neighbors. The things we end up reading and doing in such places tend to make us angrier, dumber, and pettier.
We’ve been longing for something better. Perhaps you have too. We are done with seeing the worst in people and are not just ready, but eager, to start seeing the best in them.
And so this app is a modest expression of optimism. It’s a square on your smartphone that you can tap when you want to enter a space for great reading and lively conversation that’s based on different rules from legacy social media. Here, writers are rewarded for respecting your trust and attention—and they get the vast majority of revenue that flows through the platform (by a ratio of 9:1). There are no ads. You can find people to follow by syncing your phone’s contacts, and you can discover extraordinary things to read, listen to, and watch via the short-form notes and recommendations of people whose taste you trust.
Here, there are not only towering figures of literature, arts, and sciences—including Elizabeth Gilbert, George Saunders, Junot Díaz, Elif Batuman, Jeff Tweedy, Alison Roman, Astral Codex Ten, Richard Dawkins, Roxane Gay, and Emily Oster—but also a wild array of lesser-known Substackers who write about their expertise and passions, from economics to poetry, fiction to food, museums to music, and geopolitics to local news.
The core of the app will always be built around the direct relationships you have with the writers and creators you care about most. That’s why the top of the home screen features a carousel of posts that we think you will want to read next from your list of subscriptions. Each post in the carousel gets prime visual treatment, so it’s like each one has its own billboard. Meanwhile, the app’s center tab is given to your inbox, so you can see posts from your subscriptions in chronological order and sort them using the filters for saved or audio posts. And in the Chat tab, you can participate in writer-hosted discussions around topics you give a damn about.
In making Substack, we have set out to build a better internet for readers. That doesn’t mean we want some kind of Disneyland, where everyone’s always smiling. But we are dedicated to creating a home where good-faith discourse can flourish and where quality is prized. We want you to have a quiet place to read and also a space where you can get a little loose without needing to worry about being descended upon by a mob. The internet used to be a lot more fun—and we think it can be again.
It’s still very early days, but here’s what some people have been saying about their experience with the Substack app so far.
The app will grow and change in the months and years ahead. In the words of one of the top finance writers on Substack: “It feels like the early days of YouTube.” You are here at the right time. You can help shape this new space with us and define what it becomes.
We can’t wait to see you there.
Chris, Hamish, and Jairaj