The Death of Internet Communities 1.0
First it was Twitter and now Reddit. There are more and more fun places online seemingly ruining things for their own short-term gain.
If you aren't aware here is a very brief explanation and places you can go to learn more about it, because this Substack post isn't going to rehash the news, this is a funeral for internet fun.
After the acquisition of Twitter from Elon Musk it quickly became a right-wing playhouse as well as completely open for hate-speech on the platform. Furthermore, Twitter completely closed off their API to third-party apps making many of the people creating amazing apps like Twitterrific and Tweetbot close up shop overnight.
It has become a safe-haven for the "anti-woke" crowd and by Elon's recently liked tweets it seems he has similar views as them too. Instead of being a place for discourse it is instead a Truth Social lite.
Further Reading: Twitter Is a Far-Right Social Network by Charlie Warzel, The Atlantic
Reddit has taken a page out of Twitter's book and decided to charge for their API, which isn't all that uncommon. The problem with this is that Reddit is charging over 2000% more than the average Reddit user costs for server expenses. Christian Selig, the developer of the popular iOS Reddit app Apollo, did some basic envelope math on this after being told that he would have to spend $20 million a year to keep Apollo active.
Shortly after Selig's post, Reddit users decided to protest the API changes and "go dark" on June 12th. However, just yesterday Selig came out and explained that Apollo will be shut down after June 30 due to the upcoming API costs and some false allegations of threats. After Selig's announcement came more developers of Reddit apps and services announcing they too were closing up shop. Among those are Reddit is Fun and Sync.
Finally, as the discourse on Reddit has gone fully berserk over the consequences of the API changes, Reddit announced an AMA (Ask Me Anything) with Reddit's CEO, Steve Huffman, today at 1:30 Eastern time.
The Death of Fun
Like a lot of people, Twitter and Reddit were some of the few places I frequented that felt like my home online. I met a lot of really awesome people on both platforms, gained perspectives I wouldn't otherwise have, learned about memes and other internet culture, and even started a podcast because of a bond I made on Twitter with Christopher Lawley.
Sadly, those platforms are a shell of their former selves and continues to choose dollars over longevity. It's a true "emperor has no clothes" kind of situation.
Aside from the fun I had online and the people I met, places like Reddit and Twitter are important to those online. It was a place where you could find people into the same niche as you. If you were an Apple enthusiast maybe you frequented r/Apple or followed #WWDC on Twitter. You were able to engage with people excited about the latest from Silicon Valley. The same can be said about nearly every kind of internet culture, including r/HydroHomies (a subreddit dedicated to sharing memes and photos about staying hydrated).
The point is that Reddit and Twitter were two of the biggest places for people to no longer feel alone and unseen. While Reddit and Twitter aren't the only places people can go to find those in their niche it was candidly the largest pool to dive into. It provided a place for those with common interests to meet and form bonds that last lifetimes. On top of that it provided safe-havens for those being persecuted or ostracized in their home. Many LGBTQ+ people have benefitted from online groups on Twitter and Reddit for example.
Before you think about rebutting in the comments about how Reddit also paved the way for Donald Trump with the now banned r/The_Donald subreddit, I am aware that not everything about Twitter and Reddit was sunshine and rainbows. It had some dark spots, and I agree that with the good also comes the bad. But even with the bad we all continued to eat up the content on Twitter and Reddit. To be clear, we did it because there was still so much good to be gained from these platforms that outweighed the bad for many of us.
Sadly, it seems that both Twitter and Reddit are no longer offering the good anymore, instead it is just bad; and it’s getting worse.
Internet Communities 2.0: The Fediverse
While I do believe that Twitter and Reddit losing users en masse is a good thing given the circumstances, it doesn't come without a price. Many are being displaced from their online homes. Thankfully there is a new resurgence in federated and open-web projects online to act as an alternative to Twitter and Reddit. Sites like micro.blog and services like Mastodon are working to bring people together while still being in the open-web and a part of the federated universe.
Mastodon was where I spent my time during the WWDC announcements and after learning you can follow hashtags I simply followed #WWDC and #WWDC2023 to keep my fingers on the pulse of those watching. It was just as fun, if not more fun, than when I handled it on Twitter last year.
I plan to leave Reddit come June 30th, and I am most likely also going to leave Twitter at that time as well. As of now, you can find me on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org, over on my blog, and you can contact me.