Ether: what it is and how to join it

Aether is a distributed peer-to-peer discussion platform similar to Reddit, but more privacy-focused, censorship-resistant, and giving users more control. Because Aether's platform is peer-to-peer, each user is their own publisher and server, giving them maximum control over what they publish, what they see, and the communities they join. This article introduces Aether, explains how to sign up, how much it costs, and how Aether compares to Reddit and X (formerly Twitter).

Aether is a discussion platform similar to Reddit and X (but more similar to Reddit) that uses peer-to-peer technology to avoid censorship and provide a high level of user control.

The best way to understand how Aether is similar to and different from Reddit and X is to think of the platform as a house.

X is built on a foundation with a huge room above. Everyone is in that room, talking to each other. Reddit has a foundation with many different rooms built on it, and you can go from one room to another and participate in the conversations that take place in each room.

Aether doesn't have one big room/unified dialogue like X does. It's more like Reddit: it has many different, smaller rooms for having conversations. But there is a key difference.

Unlike Reddit or X, users do not post content to Aether. Because Aether is peer-to-peer, users can post messages from their own computers and have that content discovered and shared through the application. On Reddit and X, users post their content to centralized servers owned and maintained by these companies.

Aether is aimed at a more technical audience. This is best for those who know what a "glob" or asterisk is in a domain's allowed list, and know enough about cryptocurrencies and blockchain to grasp an explanation of why Aether is not blockchain-based.

Ethernet Pro

The company promotes Aether Pro, "a private, team-based version of Aether that serves as a collaboration tool, just like Slack." This version of the platform offers live chat rooms, structured discussion threads, email communications, and more. However, there's nothing on the website indicating how much it costs or how to sign up.

The company does not make this information public. In a 2021 interview with the platform’s co-founder, he said Aether had about 2,000 users. By comparison, Reddit claims to have 52 million users.

As of this writing, no Aether community has more than 79 subscribers, and most communities have under 30 users. The last post on the company's web forum was in March 2022, although at least one new post appeared in the app almost every day in 2023.

Ethereum does not use a blockchain. For technical readers, Aether provides long, highly detailed explanations of the technology used to create and operate the platform.

Joining Aether is easy: just download the peer-to-peer desktop app (available for Windows, Mac and Linux).

After downloading and installing the app, launch it and follow the on-screen prompts. You can create an account or not.

The app offers popular and new posts, a bit like Reddit. You can also browse or search subcommunities, which are smaller communities focused on specific topics or interests.

Ethereum is a free service. It doesn't even have ads.

While both the app and website mention that users can support the platform through Patreon, the links are broken and a search on Patreon doesn't return any relevant content.

Aether vs. Reddit and X

  • a set of related communities

  • Posts will automatically disappear after 6 months

  • Privacy focused: "Aether is committed to knowing as little as possible about your identity"

  • All content is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-SA license, which means the poster gives up some rights to his work

  • Decentralized: no central control, content moderation, or servers that can be shut down

  • No algorithm: users control exactly what they see

  • Username is not unique

Reddit and X
  • Single monolithic platform with community

  • Posts will always be public unless the poster deletes them

  • Collect user data for purposes such as ad targeting

  • While the platform claims some rights to the content posted, the poster retains copyright

  • Centralization: Companies maintain control over content, operations and infrastructure

  • Algorithmic delivery of content (on X)

  • unique username

Certain types of users may be interested in ether. The promise of a decentralized, unregulated discussion space is exactly what some are looking for. However, with such a small user base, it remains to be seen whether the service can attract more people. As of now, its smaller user base doesn't match the breadth of Reddit or X.

  • Aether is a privately held company headquartered in California. Its founder is Benedict Lau.