Yesterday I read the excellent article by Cory Doctorow: Let the Platforms Burn and this particular anecdote
The thing is, network effects are a double-edged sword. People join a service to be with the people they care about. But when the people they care about start to leave, everyone rushes for the exits. Here’s danah boyd, describing the last days of Myspace:
If a central node in a network disappeared and went somewhere else (like from MySpace to Facebook), that person could pull some portion of their connections with them to a new site. However, if the accounts on the site that drew emotional intensity stopped doing so, people stopped engaging as much. Watching Friendster come undone, I started to think that the fading of emotionally sticky nodes was even more problematic than the disappearance of segments of the graph.
With MySpace, I was trying to identify the point where I thought the site was going to unravel. When I started seeing the disappearance of emotionally sticky nodes, I reached out to members of the MySpace team to share my concerns and they told me that their numbers looked fine. Active uniques were high, the amount of time people spent on the site was continuing to grow, and new accounts were being created at a rate faster than accounts were being closed. I shook my head; I didn’t think that was enough. A few months later, the site started to unravel.
This is exactly what is happening to Reddit currently. The most passionate contributors, the most tech-literate users, and the integrators who make all the free tools in the ecosystem around reddit which makes that service much more valuable have left and will never look back.
From the dashboards of u/spez however, things might looks great. Better even! As the drama around their decision making certainly caused a lot more posts and interactions, and the loss of the 3rd party apps drove at least a few users to the official applications.
But this is an illusion. Like MySpace before them, the metric might look good, but the soul of the site has been lost. It’s not easy to explain but since I’ve started using Lemmy full-time, I’ve seen the improvement in engagement and quality in real time. half a month ago, posts could barely pass 2 digits, now they regularly break 3 and sometimes 4 digits. And the quality of the discussions is a pleasure to go through.
I said it before, but reddit was never a particularly good site. Their saving grace was the openness of their API and their hands-off approach to communities. The two things they just destroyed. It’s those 3rd party tools and communities that made reddit like it is. As as the ecosystem around reddit sputters and dies, the one around the Threadiverse is progressing in an astonishing rate.
Not only are the integrators coming from reddit aware what kind of bots and tools are going to be very useful, but a lot of those tools are shut off from reddit and switched to the lemmy API instead, explicitly cannibalizing the quality of the reddit experience. And due to the completely open API of the Threadiverse, those tools now get access to unparalleled access and power.
Sure if you visit reddit currently, you’ll see people talking and voting, but as someone who’s been there from the start, the quality has fallen off a hill and is reaching terminal velocity. But it feels like one’s still flying!
Not just the quality of the posts where only the most superficial meme stuff can rise to the top, not just the quality of the discussion, but even mere vibe of the discussions is just lost.
There’s now significant bitterness and hostility, especially as the mods who were responsible for maintaining the quality, have gone or are being hands off or just don’t have the tools needed to keep up. I’ve heard from multiple people who are leaving even while they were not originally planning to, because the people left over in reddit are just so toxic.
This is a very vicious cycle which will accelerate the demise of that site even further.
A house fire can go from a spark to a raging inferno in less than a minute. The flames consuming reddit are just now climbing up the curtains and it still appears manageable, but it’s already too late. Reddit has reached terminal enshittification and the only thing left for it to do, is die.