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Three months ago, YouTube copycat Rumble was filled with home recordings of people’s family, friends, and pets. But after Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California joined the service in August, other conservatives followed, helping add tens of thousands of new subscribers.
Seven-year-old Rumble now has nearly 80 million users, up from 40 million in August. Video streaming on the service has soared 26-fold, as measured by the amount of bandwidth used.
“The way I look at this as we’re neutral,” said Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski. “We won’t discriminate against anyone or any group.”
The rapid rise of Toronto-based Rumble coincides with growing criticism of big tech services like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, which conservatives say unfairly censor their views. In addition to joining Rumble, many Trump supporters have flocked to right-leaning social media services such as Parler and MeWe.
Here’s everything to know about Rumble.
What is Rumble?
Similar to YouTube, Rumble lets users upload their videos and create their own channels. The service debuted as a desktop website in 2013 after Pavlovski saw people complaining that YouTube was making their videos harder to find because it favored clips from professional video publishers.
This year, Rumble grew rapidly, mostly from conservatives frustrated by Twitter and Facebook cracking down on hate speech and misinformation. As a result, Rumble’s top trending videos include ones from conservative political commentators Dinesh D’Souza, Dan Bongino, and Sean Hannity as well as the conservative news organization Just the News.
Pavlovski said he never intended Rumble to become a hub for conservatives, but he has no problem with it.
“Our politics was cute cats and dogs prior to the last three months,” he said.
How is Rumble different?
Pavlovski compared Rumble to what Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube were like 10 years ago: It uses far fewer algorithms for recommending content, and it displays videos in chronological order to users based on who they follow on the service.
Rumble also imposes fewer rules other than banning videos that include pornography, exploitation of children, illegal activity, and harassment. Videos claiming election fraud and that the coronavirus is a hoax therefore remain on the site.
“We’re not involved in fact-checking; we’re not arbitrators of truth,” Pavlovski said.
When Rumble removes videos, it’s only after humans review them, Pavlovski said—drawing a distinction between his service and Facebook, which uses artificial intelligence to filter many posts. And with about five people policing Rumble, there’s only so much they can do.
Unlike YouTube, which often boosts content that has high engagement, giving popular creators an advantage, Rumble said it doesn’t play favorites. Pavlovski said this puts all creators on an even playing field, helping some gain popularity faster than they would have on YouTube.
For example, in just a few months, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a big supporter of President Trump, amassed more than 100,000 subscribers on Rumble versus the 42,000 on YouTube that he’s attracted over 12 years.
How is it funded?
Pavlovski said he bootstrapped the company on his own, starting with just a handful of employees and constantly reinvesting any profits back into the company. But that wasn’t by choice.
“We did try” to raise money, he said. “When we said we’re trying to develop a YouTube competitor, it wasn’t exactly well-received.”
Pavlovski said Rumble is financially “self-sustaining,” though he declined to provide details about its revenue. Rumble, he said, is focused on maintaining its rapid growth, which has created new infrastructure challenges.
Rumble makes money from ads and sponsorships as well as its business-oriented product that helps companies host videos on their own websites.
Where did the name come from?
The name Rumble is somewhat happenstance. Pavlovski, now 37, said that on his 30th birthday one of his friends gave him the domain Rumble.com with the expectation that he would do something with it. Pavlovski had already been considering creating a YouTube competitor, and he thought the name worked for the service.