Meet Ponder, The App Trying to Disrupt Facebook’s ‘Control of Ideas’

Mark Cuban-backed app wants to “democratize” content rankings from algorithms, influencers

As debate continues over accusations of bias in selecting Facebook’s trending topics, one emerging platform backed by Mark Cuban is looking to completely change the metrics for ranking popular content.

Ponder, an app-based social network founded by William LeGate and Tyler Mateen, wanted to break from the frequently used practice of ranking content using algorithms or recommendations from widely-followed users. Instead it uses the more democratic voting system of letting each individual user vote up or down on photo or video posts.

“What we’re seeing right now with social media is widespread of control of ideas,” said LeGate, a 21-year-old Thiel Fellowship recipient backed by Cuban and lured from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles after a chance meeting with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

“The backlash, as far as we see it, captures people’s resentment of this system and where it’s going,” LeGate added.

Facebook has criticized in recent weeks following the discovery of leaked documents that claimed the massive company was relying on editors to stipulate what was popular on the site, instead of using algorithms.

What makes the Ponder app different from Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, according to LeGate and Mateen, are posts that are designed to spread beyond your network of friends and followers — a user-curated feed of photos and videos that have been “pushed” by your friends and others with similar tastes.

Ponder Founders William LeGate (left) and Tyler Mateen

Ponder Founders William LeGate (left) and Tyler Mateen

“We’re bringing social networks back to their original purpose — a place where everyone has a voice,” said Mateen, whose brother Justin Mateen founded ubiquitous dating app Tinder with Sean Rad. (Both back Ponder.)

“We also don’t show how many followers someone has. It seems like a minor thing, but it can be this weird caste system. We got rid of that, your post should be about quality. We don’t allow comments, either, because comment sections are notoriously hateful,” LeGate said. 

And it’s not just political balance at stake, the men claim — Ponder has strong ties to messages of anti-bullying and “anti-drama” that are often found online.

“On Ponder, every user determines what other users see — and things that trend to the top tend to be less narcissistic and come from the message behind the content Art and music are very popular,” Mateen said. 

Ponder is currently exclusive to iOS users, an estimated quarter million and counting. The app is on the verge of a significant update and a celebrity user push that includes Colton Haynes, “Pretty Little Liars” star Troian Bellisario, singer Cody Simpson and pop rockers 5 Seconds of Summer.