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Jimmy Wales has quietly launched a Facebook rival (zdnet.com)
741 points by cpeterso on Nov 15, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 566 comments

What I want is a decentralized Reddit not under the control of advertising needs. Reddit redesign has been bad for quality content. I actually find Reddit to be a better source of information and knowledge than Google at this point, mostly because Google has been inundated with paid blog-spam. It's a bit harder to get away with that in Reddit (for the time being, and for whatever reason).

There already is a decentralized Reddit where subreddits are called websites and anyone can start one and run it as they please.

What Reddit and similar sites bring to the table is a single pool of authenticated users. Once a user is logged into Reddit, posting on different subreddits is frictionless. Even with oauth and the like, it is hard to replicate that with a distributed set of sites.

I disagree. What Reddit brings to the table is:

1. Easy sharing: Subreddits, which are an easy location to share interesting information about a common topic. Creating your own website is an order of magnitude harder, especially if you want to allow anyone on the internet to post to it

2. Discoverability: You can easily discover subreddits information related to your interests. Reddit's ability to aggregate the various information sources and present options that users find interesting is the biggest reason lurkers&voters (90% of it's users) keep returning.

You missed the most important point:

3. Discussions

Try discussing anything on a random website.

Discussions, just like on HN, are usually better than the linked content.

Honestly, I have a strong interest in US, Chinese, European, and now Russian politics, and how they relate to the future of the humanity and all life on earth. It is clear that most real innovation happens much more quickly and decisively if centralized under a government that decides to spend a lot of money on research, so those are discussions and reading materials that I have to find on places like reddit. Ultimately, many of the decisions and things occurring today, while political, have deep personal philosophical roots. Discussions in particular spaces regarding that simply can't happen here due to the rules; rules that differ on different subreddits and for each community I agree with.

Reddit is the best place to find those, IMO.

I wouldn't be too sure about the statement that innovation happens faster under centralization (especially government). Rather I'd guess you get certain types of innovations.

How many years after we went to space using a central authority did it take before private enterprise could do it? How much did private enterprise depend on the technological development that arose from central and shared commitments to scientific development in that space?

We can have the same discussions about the NIH and new drug development (since most drugs simply can't make money). The internet, chips, Google itself was started as a federally funded post-grad project.

Things move much faster when we devote shared resources into risk taking that cannot make money. It might sound like waste, but government spending, I surmise, is what creates great economies. This occurs because technological advancement, especially those that can't obviously be exploited for financial gain in the market, are the true drivers of our economy.

Either way, we will soon begin to see who is right. There are several countries now competing with the US who were far behind when we went to our current model of low taxation, high free market. It should be interesting to see if their centralized scientific/technological systems outdo us over time.

And then no more. The real innovation happens today is more real and substantial. Whenever you use public fund even under dictatorship like Soviet Union and china today you just have a legitimacy issues - children vs space. I am on the space side but have Soviet Union got voyager ? And I also understand the stress NASA has.

You need both and totalitarianism never pay.

Clearly pure centralization doesn't work, and pure decentralization is chaos. The sweet spot is in between. Right now China seems to be in a better position than the US in that sense. They promote the same type of startups we have in Silicon Valley, and yet have an overarching centralized policy for the long term. In a way, the Chinese government acts as a sort of Facebook or Google.

Since you're interested in Russian politics I'd recommend checking out https://www.ridl.io/en/ if you haven't already. Online forums are great, and it's nice to combine that with some gatekeepered stuff

Please share some links to those materials. I’m interested in the same.

What I would recommend is that you spend some time on reddit and find them for yourself. Reddit has so many well-built communities, that it's difficult for me to suggest some. Even really vile parts of the site are good for understanding propaganda and how it works, and what it's saying today.

I've found that Reddit (in terms of content, not UI) has gotten somewhat better in recent years, while most discussion venues have either gotten much worse or gotten rid of commenting altogether.

In relative terms, it's superior to most of its alternatives (present site excluded, of course).

I really don't see much actual discussion on Reddit.

For all that it was a ghost town, if you could find some good conversation hosts / moderators on Google+, that site had some really good discussions. Probably mostly because it didn't try to scale.

(Yes, this was a hugely subjective experience, and depending on who you did or didn't follow, quality varied dramatically. The core G+ user group was probably ~100k or so English-literate participants, of whom a good 10-20k have ended up on the Pluspora Diaspora pod.)

I've both tried to start and gone looking for conversation on Reddit. The site conspires against this, in several ways.

If you're aware of specific subs that really shine and aren't afraid to name them, I'd appreciate it. (I can completely understand not wanting to out good discussion.)

Mind I'm contrasting discussion with merely good information, which Ask Historians, Ask Science, and a small set of other subs manage to achieve, with draconian (and much needed & welcomed) moderation.

I didn’t see a lot of discussion at Reddit. I saw echo chambers. I have since deleted my account and abandoned Reddit as a result. If I want focused discussion I find somewhere without a visible vote marker like HN or IRC.

Kickass moderation by committed individuals who are also experts in the field.

See AskHistorians, Science, ModeratePolitics etc.

This combined with huge communities results in incredible conversations.

And the obverse is r/sanfrancisco with moderation that has turned the sub into a sunset travel pic slide show punctuated by golden gate bridge pictures. What a wasted opportunity for something interesting. And it is leaking into r/bayarea ruining it as well.

Interesting phenomenon. It's eerily similar to r/Boston.

You overestimate the skills of moderators... I doubt very much that true experts in their fields would spend any time doing moderation Reddit... most likely, people doing that would be recent graduates trying to learn and impart their recently gained knowledge upon laymen.

There are several subs I'm aware of which do seem to garner expert-level moderation.

The Asks -- Science, Historians, possibly Economists (I'm trying to decide there -- the mods talk expertise, though quality IMO lags). Several of the Fitness subs are quite good. Various technical subs attract high-quality contributors, and the CSS support sub (specifically for styling old-style Reddit custom stylesheets) is simply superb. I've dug into energy topics, and though there's a bit of BS flung about, there's also quality expertise.

Posting online actually is a form of shingle-hanging and getting a sense of issues people are facing in the real world. There's value to that.

I wouldn't use science as a paragon for moderation, they were involved in a huge vote manipulation controversy just last year

/r/askscience is well moderated.

Within a narrowly defined range of acceptable debate (see: Noam Chomsky)

I feel like I've seen more of the opposite (piss poor moderation) than the good. This is why on your average subreddit, the average quality of discussion is extremely low, with the top comments being low-effort one liners. In worse cases, sometimes the moderators because straight up authoritarian, censoring opposing views even if they're well-reasoned and thought out (any politics-related subreddit).

I'm not defending reddit at all, however to be fair certain topics are almost guaranteed to have very heated comment threads, politics for example.

And 3. Quality Control As problematic as the voting system is, in the end the quality of the contribution is better vetted than any Google result. I often search even for products only on reddit first to get real customer insights and contradicting options than the overoptimized Google and Amazon reviews.

Also, a (mostly) consistent user interface.

As long as you use old.reddit.com.

Do you know if old.reddit doesn't do the horrible trick the "normal" Reddit does when you hit the browser's back button, where it fucking reloads the page or something so you get up to the top of the page instead of to the part of the page where the link you'd clicked was, so you could go to the comments? Specially on mobile, that makes me hate Reddit!! Trying on desktop, old.reddit seems to not do that.

You can just go to preferences and disable redesign, no need to change the url itself.

I'm faintly surprised reddit's redesign didn't kill it, like Digg's did.

There have to be some folks there fully aware of the dark-pattern hell of their redesign, and smart enough to keep old.reddit running to appease the people who appreciate what the old style offers. And I hope they keep it up! Reddit is pretty much the last forum I frequent other than here, and the day they kill off the older version is the day I stop visiting.

And disable subreddits css.

Which contributes to the easy of use/good user experience factor

You don't come there for because "it has a consistent user interface". You come there because "it's easy to use!" (and you find it easy because it's consistent, like you said)

> Creating your own website is an order of magnitude harder

So let's fix that?

I don't know how much easier it can get than it already is.

See https://www.netlify.com/

Basically, just put a bunch of html/css files in a GitHub repo, then use the above page to let Netlify publish that on the net... it can even set up DNS for you so you can your own domain.

If that's still too hard, you can use a drag-and-drop option: https://app.netlify.com/drop

Just drop a folder with your website and you're done.

That seems appropriate for people who understand terms like “continuous deployment” and “serverless functions”, but I thought we were discussing a far, far more widespread audience. Nerds can set up websites with just an ssh password - we need something for the remaining 99.9%

Is there a way for doing that, just instead of using html/css files, you'd use a docker image?

You don't even need Netlify. You can host basically any static sites directly on GitHub. I've got one pure HTML/CSS site, six React apps, and two Jekyll sites running on GitHub Pages.

What are the best current options for 'creating your own website'? Are we talking primarily blogging, or are we seeking a more general solution? As a geek, my first instinct is github pages, but that’s far from user-friendly, as-is.

I guess, if we’re talking about 'creating your own website', we do literally mean any site, not just a limited subset. Clearly, server-side scripting is out of scope, so we're talking content rather than apps - so any form of HTML+Js+css, with a very accessible UI, and lots of 'templates' available for each of the three technologies.

The hard part is getting users to visit.

You can't upvote though. One of the nice things same Reddit is that you can go to a subreddit about something you want to learn about and sort for the most popular posts from last year (for example). Some kind of system like that for websites could become a killer feature.

You could treat a link to the post as a proxy for an upvote, and then rank posts based on how many other posts link to them. Of course you wouldn't be able to charge for this service so you'd have to sell ad space on the front page.

That would be an exceedingly thin signal. Very few posts will have incoming links, so you'll get very little scoring data.

The signal will be hugely susceptible to outlier bias -- The Post That Goes Viral, and generates a huge number of incoming links -- will dominate the rankings.

Because the signal is so thin, distorting and manipulation (through link farming) will be cheap and difficult to detect (a small number of links across a large number of sites).

Don't get me wrong: looking at incidental behaviour is useful, and can often be much more beneficial than direct actions. But remember that all of these signals are actually proxies for some ineffible quantity you're trying to measure, quality.

(The very definition of which should leave you crying on the floor after a few hours. Or days. Or weeks. Or months. Or years....)

May minds have attempted this task. All have fail.

Your correspondent included.

(Small site, many moons ago, since surrendered its electrons back to the Great Disk in the Sky.)

If I may go on a tangent, I’ve thought a bit about the problem of link farms and how it might be addressed.

The problem is essentially this: since pagerank is basically the probability that a random walk through the link graph will end up on your site, linking back to yourself, and no other websites, gives a big boost to your pagerank because a random walk will get stuck on your site. Of course it’s easy to just ignore self-links, but you can get essentially the same effect through clique-like groups of websites and this can be more difficult to detect.

What’s interesting is that an algorithm based on how electrical current flows (so a link is a one-way resistor, i.e. a resistor in series with a diode) would not have this problem. Attaching a conductive loop to some point in a circuit does not change how current flows. Electrons don’t get stuck in loops because they don’t drift around randomly, they move from lower voltage to higher voltage.

Tangents are disallowed. But I'll grant you a hyperbolic trajectory.

Link graphs remind me of lightning descending leaders. If you can have a sense of charge potential between cloud and ground, there might be a circuit equivalent which drains largely self-referential link-farms.

Or is that rephrasing your description? My circuit physics / EE-fu is exceedingly weak.

"Or is that rephrasing your description?"

I think so? There is an obvious circuit equivalent where links are interpreted as one-way resistors. You get a charge potential automatically given the circuit and a choice of source / sink nodes (which you need to decide on anyway to apply pagerank).

The notion of a potential & sink seems to be key, and the idea that if you identify a collectively chained circuit, it cannot be both source and sink to itself. Which is what link farms (self-referral) or "mutual admiration societies" are. The question is whether or not you can determine the interconnectedness. Since DNS obscures true ownership relations, that's a challenge.

Cluster analysis generally shows such relations though.

(I'm pretty sure these questions have generated multiple PhDs at Google.)

“The question is whether or not you can determine the interconnectedness.” I’m not sure what you mean by this. The algorithm I'm describing doesn't require any data beyond what is already used by PageRank.

I have a feeling that you think the electrical potential must be defined by some ad-hoc method before applying an electrical algorithm, and this requires fancy techniques like cluster analysis and the like? This is not the case. Let me re-emphasize that you only need to specify the network of resistors (which is the link graph) and the source and sink, and then the potential is defined automatically in terms of those things (the same way as in physical circuits).

Thanks. I need to think about this.

The source and sink are arbitrary? Or do they need to correspond to some actual reality?

Hacker News starts to severely rate-limit replies in deeply nested threads so if you want to continue discussing this you can email me (email in profile).

In regards to the question, the latter. The source corresponds roughly to the E vector of the pagerank whitepaper. It's a set of websites that's axiomatically good. The pagerank paper suggested the Netscape home page and John McCarthy's homepage as examples, or alternatively making every website a source, although the last option is more prone to abuse. The sink is harder to find a good analogy for. I think a reasonable choice would be to add a new node to the graph representing the sink, and then connect every website via a directed resistor. Then websites could be ranked by how much current flows through the resistor to the sink.

Edit: By the way, upon thinking about this more, I've just realized that I'm not sure about the exact mechanism by which link farms boost pagerank. As far as I can tell there are two possibilities:

A. The original "stuck in a loop" explanation, by which you can illegitimately magnify legitimately earned rank.

B. With the every-page-as-source strategy, you can boost the rank of a website by creating a new website and linking to it, even if nothing links to the new website. Then the other extra links in the link farm just exist to avoid detection of this sort of thing. So you are illegitimately creating rank from scratch, rather than magnifying existing rank.

Admittedly the electrical circuit thing only addresses mechanism A. Mechanism B can be addressed by being more discriminating about which websites are in the source. That applies whether you use pagerank or the electrical thing.

My comment was a tongue in cheek reference to early Google. I can't tell if you missed the joke or just one upped me on a heroic scale.

The possibility had occurred.

And I'll claim my prize to the second ;-)

Isn't that PageRank? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank Or did I miss the subtle joke.

twenty years later we're back to Yahoo's directories

It’s a little more than just auth. Websites have different codes of conduct, different attitudes to humour/off topic content, and crucially different moderation and user safety policies. Remember on most random web forums you have no idea who can see your IP address (if anonymity is important).

Much of this is true on Reddit too, except mods seeing your IP address, but most of the important info is consistently in the subreddit sidebar.

"There already is a decentralized Reddit where subreddits are called websites and anyone can start one and run it as they please"

But can your grandmother do this ... or just the common person?

With something like squarespace or any of the umpteen other design by wooden block site generator companies, or even Wordpress or Blogger... probably?

But those aren't free necessarily and they're detached from one another. The thing that's attractive about Reddit is:

1. It's free 2. It's all under one site so it's easier for people to find a new community to join 3. You only need one account and it doesn't require an email address so if you have a one off woodworking question you can ask it without having to register on a new forum

Websites are great for displaying information but they are not ideal for discussion

> 1. It's free

Blogger is free. LiveJournal is free. There's plenty of free offerings. Taken as an ecosystem, they are decentralized.

> 2. It's all under one site so it's easier for people to find a new community to join

The question was for a decentralized service. You can't really have everything under one site and be decentralized, because that one site can filter anything they want. I agree that people want that, but it wasn't the question.

> 3. You only need one account and it doesn't require an email address so if you have a one off woodworking question you can ask it without having to register on a new forum

Not really part of the question, which was whether the average person can make a forum through a web page.

I think your points have merit, but they don't necessarily apply to the question that was posed, at least as I interpreted it and intended my response to apply to it.

> It's all under one site so it's easier for people to find a new community to join

In theory you can find new subreddits starting from the main page, but it's more often because of people cross-posting things from somewhere you weren't previously aware existed.

There isn't any technical reason why a decentralized system couldn't work the same way. Basically just need a standard way to designate posts as permissible to repost on other sites with a link-back, and then a button on the site that makes it easy to do that.

> You only need one account and it doesn't require an email address so if you have a one off woodworking question you can ask it without having to register on a new forum

Small sites should go the other way and use an email as the login name (distinct from the public display name if you want). Then you don't even have a password, to sign in you get an email with a token in it. Paste the token or click the link from the email and you get a cookie that keeps you signed in. Lose the cookie or want to sign into another device and they send you another email.

Then "signup" takes five seconds, there's no login to forget (it's your email) and no password to forget (it doesn't even exist), so doing this on a hundred independent websites doesn't matter. You don't even have to use the email you actually read, you could use one exclusively for this type of account and then ignore anything that comes to it that isn't a site login token.

Once upon a time, yes.

It’s easier now than ever. The difference is that normal people don’t venture off the big websites now.

It is easy to set up a site, to blog and people can comment and you do not get drowned in auto spam?

Where and how?

...and enough people find your content to have a decent conversation without you having to learn marketing?

Try. My blog got 16 visitors from another blog today.

(edit: it is now 23!)

Won't make me rich.

But it makes me happy that I am part of rebuilding an old style web.

If you write about interesting stuff, post your website below and I might add a link and I don't care about nofollow and all that SEO stuff. Maybe 5 of my visitors visit you.

You won't get rich but you will be part of something.

I did, for 7 or 8 years. It was good for my writing skills (and fun) but it was a little like talking into a vacuum.

Activitypub is one solution. Write.as implements a blogging platform that federates with other platforms using the same protocol, such as Mastodon or Pleroma.

They still haven't implemented support for seeing comments on the blog post itself, but once they have that it seems to be exactly what you are looking for.

https://wordpress.com is relatively simple, prevents SPAM, and has tools to discover and follow other blogs.

WordPress has been around for quite a while, yes.

Seems like that'd be a good way to avoid the eternal September of the modern web. If "normals" are massing on Reddit and Facebook, maybe the wild west of independent websites is poised for a Renaissance?

It seems like some subreddits are already those jumping off points to other places.

r/sffpc has https://smallformfactor.net/forum/

r/JDM_WAAAAT has serverbuilds.net

Not to mention that some subs have associated / affiliated Discord servers- where you can directly chat with those at the forefront of the community directly.

Some might say the difference is that normal people are using the internet.

We could end up with an interesting solution with constraints like:

  - Self-hosted mostly-static sites
  - Open protocol

  - Own domain
  - Own site is portal for aggregated views
  - Extensions (Install events, chat, ...)
  - Rust (minimal RAM)

micro.blog is something like this, federation for personal blogs

> There already is a decentralized Reddit where subreddits are called


> and anyone can start one and run it as they please.

Could something like keybase be adapted for this purpose?

Why? Published an oauth API and let peeps go nut! I bet if some one like reddit did that I bet that there would be PHP modules and the like in days! There would be ways to cover the costs either by landing page or charging the child site per block of calls.

Accepting Github's, Reddit's and Google's Oauth allows you to have frictionless registration as well on any website.

Maybe a federation of blogs is needed? Everyone has their user pool so that a user on `blog-a` named `user` can post on `blog-b.com` as `user@blog-a.com`.

Users would be free to explore a huge network while admins and creators would truly own their own little domain.

that sounds like mastodon for blogs. you can have an account on the main site mastodon.social & message someone on a different instance. Your username will show up as [user]@mastodon.social. you can also follow people on other instances & in turn content from them & others on their instance will be easier to find on your own instance.

I'm a little surprised no one's tried reviving newsgroups for discussions. Decentralized, not privacy-invading, can be rendered by a large variety of front-ends. Somewhat censorship resistant. There would be a huge potential spam problem, but that can be controlled by filters and moderators.

Maybe Usenet would be more of a headache than it's worth, but it seems perfect for what you're describing.

It's been tried, numerous times.

Usenet still exists. Outside very small pools, it's dead, or a spam wasteland.

Peter da Silva, an early heavy user (the first and fourth most prolific poster one month in the late 1980s / early 1990s, according to a reply he made to me at G+), created, and still runs, Usenet II. Which is also a wasteland.

The client-independence is a benefit only up to a certain degree. Consistent characterset (8-bit ASCII largely), no binaries / multimedia (uuencoded excepted), and consistent forms of address and reply (mostly), kept things sane.

But even between the tin/rtin and emacs newsreader camp, quoting styles differed. I don't recall if it was @gumby or others (and I'm positive one case was someone else, involved in xemacs development), but even one emacs-variant style of reply-quoting turned disruptive when trying to nest multiple levels deep.

("Doc, it hurts when I do this." "Don't do that then.")

These aren't insurmountable obstacles. But they are obstacles to be mounted. On which deciding is likely the hardest part.

It's full of really bizarre spam, though - and I got the feeling that it isn't technically straightforward to stop people from spamming, beyond everybody just keeping thousand-entry killfiles.

It's also very slow. And the posting format is very hard to follow sometimes, especially when you get people that don't do hard line breaks (or the other way around, depending on the program you're using) or have funny ideas about quoting.

Also, the lack of moderation seems to create a very wild-west style of conversation, where apparently rational people can start spewing really hardcore invective at the drop of a hat.

Newsgroups with an extension that signed your post as a verified account (handled by whatever the moderators decide is good) and with some middleware to accept signed/allowed posts automatically would probably do it, if you could get people to actually use it enough to get momentum.

Edit: I suspect something like this probably existed. It seems straightforward and obvious enough that I'd bet it did exist, but couldn't get much usage in a world where spam wasn't quite as bad, numbers of users were smaller, and people were already shifting to HTML based platforms.

Middleware to accept signed posts, eh? I smell BLOCKCHAIN!

I assume that it suffers from the same problems that make me usually give up when I find that a FOSS project's only venue for support and bug reports is a mailing list: search and discovery is less than optimal, conversations just randomly die and as an outsider you get the UX of shouting at a wall (usually nobody will respond, and you will never figure out if this is because your message was filtered, the mailing list is dead or slow-moving or everybody there just saw your message, quietly shook their head and moved on; sometimes someone randomly responds to you 3 years later after you have long moved on, which you only randomly find out when googling your name another two years after that).

If someone resurrected Compuserve, I’d pay. Again. The signal to noise ratio was insane. Having to part with real money tends to focus the mind and the tongue.

I suppose The Well is one option: https://www.well.com/. Decades of ongoing discussion.

People in tech undervalue what older communities offer. If the discussion group hasn't become a wasteland after a few years, there is something there.

Public slack and discord servers are essentially this. Organized by topic of interest and the posts are searchable.

I'd argue its a usenet/irc hybrid.

Yesterday I needed to find the websites for around 20 Danish accounting companies based on their official company names. I thought it was so few that it would take longer time to ask someone to do it than to just do it myself.

The names are rather unique, mostly made out of a string of personal names like "Watson, Sherlock & Lestrade Accountants LLC" or of geographical locations "Central Dartmoor Accounting LLC". Such accounting companies are small businesses with around 5-10 employees and mostly local clients. Their real world competition is the other handful of local accounting companies in the rural areas they are in. However, with few exceptions, I had to go to page 3 or even 4 on Google to find the companies' own website because page 1 and 2 were cluttered with ads for other accountants or accounting applications, and, to my surprise, for different SEO optimized collections of company data on accountants.

I used to think that it was just hotel and restaurant websites you have to find on page 3 buried below Bookings, Tripadvisor, Expedia and the like. But even something as mundane as accountants now have to fight SEO websites to get some attention.

> What I want is a decentralized Reddit not under the control of advertising needs

Isn't this basically what Disqus was trying to do? There were a lot of these. I think moderation ended up being a huge problem that none solved.

> Reddit redesign has been bad for quality content

I've had the opposite experience. I only started browsing reddit after advertisers forced them to purge the most toxic users/content from the site. I think it's reddit's right to do either -- purge or not purge -- but I'm not interested in the old reddit.

The redesign is bad, but I'm not really a power user, so it's not a deal-breaker for me. You can always just use old.reddit.com anyway, right?

> I only started browsing reddit after advertisers forced them to purge the most toxic users/content from the site.

Reddit, as a site, is built around you having to subscribe to things to see it on your front page.

Are you saying that opinions you disagree with (toxic) merely existing invisibly prevents you from using a platform? Because if that's not the case you were never forced to interact with those subs unless you explicitly sought them out. The one exception would be /r/all, but again the default is your "home" page so you'd never see that content.

The toxic elements didn't exist invisibly. They bled out regularly into unrelated subreddits. For example, the fat phobia of /r/FatPeopleHate seemed ever present for a time. Popped up in many different places. And then after the sub was banned and many of its users banned, that particular form of insults & speech mostly vanished. It was a huge quality of life improvement for the site overall. There have been similar results from banning some of the more virulent racist and misogynistic subs.

I suppose if you never read the comments, then the subscriptions would keep you away from certain types of content. But if you wanted to participate in the community, only banning and active moderation worked. Subscriptions weren't any barrier at all.

I feel like I’m in between both of you. On the one hand, stuff like fatpeoplehate never had any influence on my usage of reddit, on the other hand I never felt like there was a big difference between before and after the ban (of this or any other subreddit). The big subs are still utter shit, any decently sized sub without strong moderation is utter shit. Small subs are most of the time amazing.

New hate groups and power sub's pop up with the same toxicity but on a different theme. The psycho redpill has been replaced with a version for women.

Reddit doesn't want a 'better' site it just cycles the garbage to fit the trends.

>The psycho redpill has been replaced with a version for women.

Can you elaborate on this?

I forget the name of the subreddit. The old subreddit which captured man's manipulative, controlling & dark side of relationships and general coaching of male sexual behaviour aimed at maximum recreation, has been quarantined a while ago and now the female version with basically the same content about how to deal with the dark side of relationships for women is in vogue. They both overlap with multiple political groups and generally attract the unsavory. They use the same language and have information structured in same format.

Reddit, like HN, was never as good as it used to be, though many like to pretend it was.

The locus has shifted, though. Early Reddit was decidely techy, it's now exceedingly popular/memey. There were and are many cesspits. As well as numerous dead or stagnent fora, several of which I can lay claim to myself.

> Isn't this basically what Disqus was trying to do?

I don't think so. As far as I can tell, Disqus is not decentralized at all. It's basically the same as Facebook comments but from a different company.


One of the reasons that reddit can avoid 'blog spam' is because as a centralized service, they can control user registration and take measures to prevent bots from signing up for thousands of accounts and upvoting their spam.

How would this be prevented in a decentralized system? Spammers would join the network, create thousands of bots, and upvote all their spam.

Reddit doesn't really avoid anything as far as I can tell. A lot of the content in the big subreddits is more or less well concealed "organic advertising".

The upvote system is also basically useless on reddit these days, the site is way too big to enforce any kind of etiquette and people gladly upvote empty one-line quips while they'll bury anybody expressing any form of vaguely dissenting opinion. It's frankly toxic.

At least good old blog spam is easy to identify and ignore.

There are a few topics I care about where you have both big subreddits and also dedicated "old school" forums on third-party websites. The forums are always more interesting and in-depth in my experience, when the subreddits are just a litany of karma-whoring picture posts and low effort so-called "memes".

One of the things I prefer about HN is people seem to use the downvote button more often as a "this is a poor quality contribution" vote, rather than a "my opinion differs from yours" vote.

That hasn't been my experience. People show their dissent of opinions with downvotes here on HN too on sufficiently polarizing threads. I think the main difference is the type of content posted on HN vs reddit and the type of people who readily consume that content.

For example, I have noticed shameless downvoting in operating system war threads, both on reddit and on HN. In highly technical threads about physics or mathematics I have noticed people tend to vote based on the quality of the content posted.

Also, you need a lot of rep to get the right to use the downvote button, which also removes a large chunk of the would-be-downvoters

   The upvote system is also basically useless on reddit these
   days, the site is way too big to enforce any kind of 
   etiquette and people gladly upvote empty one-line quips 
   while they'll bury anybody expressing any form of vaguely 
   dissenting opinion. It's frankly toxic.

I don't know what the rest of the people praising reddit's redesign are talking about. My experience has been that its so heavily sanitized that unless you say something saccharinely in-tune with the consensus view, your comment risks being banished to the nethermost regions of the thread.

Most of the comments are rehashes of the same groupthink, echoing the same banal and glib points over and over till they choke out any real thought provoking, refreshing and original insights.

If the cost of having a system that surfaces original and thought provoking viewpoints means living with _some_ borderline hate speech subreddits, I dont mind paying that cost.

The alternative is just feel-good insanity and a thousand times worse, in import.

I enjoy Reddit for small communities, with content matter expert moderators, etc. The default subs are effectively useless other than entertainment.

"Decentralized" is the key here. One option, already mentioned, is federation like Fediverse. Even more interesting would be friend-of-a-friend system, where rating of each post is subjective, and weight of someone's upvote is inversely proportional to degree of separation between you and them.

Instances can A. block bots on themselves, B. block other instances known to harbor bots the same way they ban bots on their own instances, and if necessary C. whitelist federation if there is a pandemic of hostile actors.

I wonder if crypto could play into this. Blockchain prevents sybil attacks by making interaction not free so that large scale influence is incredibly expensive.

This was tried: steemit.com. It didn't become very prolific, perhaps because the daemon was difficult to run, and there weren't many good frontends. The founding organization subsidized account creation, but was bad at spam detection, so eventually gave up.

I mean couldn't you just require a phone number for all accounts?

Last time I checked you didn't even need an email address. username & password only.

What about Aether : https://getaether.net/?

Ah, somebody posted it before I could. :)

(Disclosure: I’m the creator of Aether, happy to answer any questions)

How do you install it on linux? I'm getting the error,

error: cannot find signatures with metadata for snap "Aether-2.0.0-dev.14+1909192130.00bf3c3.snap"

SO [1] suggests this can be forced with `sudo snap install --dangerous` but that doesn't sound right.

[1] https://askubuntu.com/questions/822765/snap-install-failure-...

Yep, the flag is right. Unfortunately the way snap is designed is that they really don’t want you to distribute binaries outside their special snap store, to the point that if you try, they try to scare your users off by naming ‘install outside snap store’ flag as ‘--dangerous’.

Interesting, okay. I like your stance on moderation transparency. At this point I'm not sure how many people recognize how important that is.

Moderation transparency is the building block to what comes next: mod elections. That’s the one piece still in the works, after that is done, I’m going to consider it stable.

Can you consider flatpak instead or in addition to canonical's snap? or maybe just a .tar.gz

When I was first considering the Linux packaging question, I did evaluate AppImage, Flatpak, Snap and plain old tar.gz, with AppImage being my favourite. Unfortunately they are not equally polished and AppImage flat out did not work in a consistent manner across multiple Linux variants. Between the rest, tar.gz was ok, but there are a lot of people who don’t know what to do with it. Between Flatpak and Snap, Snap was the vastly more polished experience for the end user and for me, so I bit the bullet on their non-ideal ‘we want to be an Apple App Store clone’ way of working and went with Snap.

It sounds like just what I want.

But I use VPNs. So I'd need to get a mapped port.

What port does Aether want?

Edit: Also, can I just install from source?

It will get whatever it can. You also don’t need a mapped port, Aether can punch holes through firewalls via reverse-opens. (Though having a port open will significantly increase your connection speed and frequency.)

You can look at the port it chooses through netstat, it does not have a fixed port. However, once it gets a working one, it won’t change it from then on so you can map that port.

Edit: you can, but it having an Electron shell for UI (the actual app is Go) makes the build process somewhat complicated. It’s on GitHub though, feel free to take a look at the makefile and give it a shot.

Thanks. I'll use an Ubuntu VM.

I just tried this. It's got some cool concepts (moderation transparency, commitment to privacy) but I'm not sure it will become as popular as HN/reddit because it isn't a website. You won't stumble across it in a google search. It's been around for 5 years and the forums don't have much activity.

> Windows 7 or higher https://getaether.net/download/

That does cover much of the market... but leaves out Linux, MacOS, and mobile.

On my browser it says "Download for Mac", so presumably you get a link specific to your current OS.

I visited that page from Manjaro and it says it supports any Linux distro with Snap support (so most).

That seems perfect.

Yes, I very often find myself adding "Reddit" to the end of search queries on Google now, because I know that the results will be people discussing the topic I'm interested in, rather than an obscure Wikipedia entry or blog spam.

I just added a search engine to chrome that searches on Google with the site:reddit com term. Add a simple shortcut to the search bar for that engine like "@", and now I just type "@ best baby teether" and get actual people discussing actual pros and cons of baby teethers (or anything else)

For duckduckgo users, !r does this too

!r redirects to the internal reddit search at https://www.reddit.com/search?q=<query>

It's not the same as searching through Google.

Every few years we all say there needs to be a new reddit but the reddit alternatives out there always devolve into places no regular person wants to join. I think there’s a balance between centralized moderation and allowing creativity and free speech that makes reddit work. We don’t give them enough credit for it.

Even HN has just the right balance that makes this place have some of the best threads on the internet.

> and for whatever reason

I think the answer has to do with the user's voice and a sense of ownership:

1. Even if spam accounts sign up, their comments and posts rarely get to the top of the algorithm because user's have a voice in the matter (downvote low quality content, and upvote other higher quality content).

2. There is a sense of ownership on the part of the mods... people who are generally passionate about the area of interest in which they moderate. There have been a number of cases over the years where moderators were acting in bad faith and the users have voiced their concerns to the Admins, who frequently remove mods or even whole subs that are operating against the benefit of the community.

Isn’t it crazy that if you go on reddit now you can only read comments one level deep?

Also if you look at r/all or r/popular right now it’s only images. I remember a time where it was mostly text.

I hate to be that guy, but it did become worse and worse.

I don’t recognise that - maybe that’s only on new.reddit, or you’re looking at a thread in contest mode?

Maybe if you’re logged in you can see the depths?

Prismo[1] was an attempt at that if anyone wants some historical context.

[1] https://gitlab.com/prismosuite/prismo

A problem with federated networks is that it eventually leads to centralization of just a few providers. For example, email is federated but most users are on gmail. IRC is federated but most users are on freenode. Diaspora is federated but most users are join the server with already most users.

The only danger is there is the propensity for majority nodes to try to break federation. Normal people will still just use the most popular instance - the value of a decentralized protocol is in how it keeps all actors honest to keep participating, and except for in extreme circumstance of market dominance like when Google and Facebook broke their XMPP support due to their overwhelming control of their silos of communication generally works.

> email is federated but most users are on gmail. IRC is federated but most users are on freenode. Diaspora is federated but most users are join the server with already most users.

I think you underestimate the long tail in all of these cases. I don't think the first two statements are accurate.

True about source of information. When people (me included) find things on google, just also add `site:reddit.com` or just `reddit` next to keyword, most noise results are likely to be gone.

This is what I do whenever I want to find people's opinions on a product or subject.

They are generally honest. Another gem of information on products are youtube comments which is tricky to search.

I find the Reddit moderator scheme both necessary and also toxic. I deleted my Reddit account a year ago and I feel my life is all the better.

It's toxic because people wanting power insist their position is necessary, others adhere to it (mostly in the name of censoring dissent) and those granted the power, like with politics, are often the last people you want having it.

Based purely on anecdotal evidence, I would say that Reddit would be far better off if it relegated "moderators" to "janitors" to remove illegal content, and auditing who is removing what regularly, and leaving the "quality" and discoverability of the legal content to be derived from the upvote/downvote system they first relied on.

> leaving the "quality" and discoverability of the legal content to be derived from the upvote/downvote system they first relied on.

Unfortunately this leads to meme cesspools lacking any major discussion. reddit's ease of discovery backfires here: it's difficult to keep a subreddit's content focused and meaningful if any random person who isn't invested in keeping quality content can wander in. Moderators, and their removal of "too shallow" content, dedicated days for memes or discussions, and creation of dedicated low-quality subreddits, are a necessary evil.

I'm actually working on something like that at https://github.com/mariusor/littr.go

It's a link aggregator based on ActivityPub, the federation protocol used by Mastodon and company.

I am closing to a 1.0 release, at which point I want it to be completely integrated in the global ActivityPub network and would be interactable with from most of the other platforms. (Basically if you have another valid fediverse account, you will be able to post/interact with littr instances)

There are also several other projects in various states of compatibility and featurefullness that are working on the same idea. On the top of my head there's:

- Prismo: https://prismo.xyz/

- Lemmy: https://dev.lemmy.ml/

I thought I wanted this until I ended up going to multiple of these sites that claim to do decentralized reddit. They're full of nazi bullshit.

I look at mastodon instances and any non-moderated ones is white-supremacist shit.

I'm not sure if the average consumer wants to see that.

Thankfully most instances are moderated though, and so far it seems to be working reasonably well.

Of course, it's still smaller than Twitter for example so we'll see how it goes when it grows larger, but right now it's working, in my opinion.

Here's a decentralized Reddit - on the Bitcoin (BCH) blockchain -


I've opened a new thread for discussion if you have any questions on it - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21551843

Have you heard of mastodon? It seems like what you are looking for. https://joinmastodon.org/

There is http://notabug.io that can create mirrors of the main site and synch them up using git. It is a beta test and only deletes cp and doxing. Using nsfw for porn and other stuff.

The code looks clean and is based on the old Reddit code and UI.

What if HackerNews instances were easily deployable? Say on par with launching a new blog through WordPress or similar. Do you think that that would by and large provide the tools and interfaces to satisfy what you are looking for?

Here's a cross between HN & Reddit and some other things, which I think is ok easy to deploy (like signing up for WP.com): there SaaS hosting so one won't need to install oneself ... Otherwise it's Docker images:

https://www.talkyard.io (I'm developing it) — and if you scroll down, you'll notice it adds some improvements on HackerNews and Reddit:


So... usenet? But with voting? I'm down. NNTP is due for an update.

Not under the thumb of a $200 million Chinese investment..

the redesigning of of our internal corporate website is just as dumb. I dont know what it is with this "web 3.0" design aspect but if something is stuttering with simple text input with 8 cores riding on 16 gb of ram, I am afraid to know what the future holds for web apps

Can’t trust one source and particularly not china funded.

Also one site meant it is easily affected by big power.

How would you go about creating something like that?

ActivityPub. Prismo already tried it, the developer just burned out before it got anywhere usable.

there is redditery if you want a cleaner (picture-focused) interface. There's also mewe if you want a complete replacement.

I specced out a decentralized spam-resistant reddit alternative a while ago, and posted it here a few months ago. Please build this, happy to sign away non-exclusive IP rights if you have an idea of how to monetize.


I've specced out a decentralized reddit alternative a little bit, but have too many side projects. Someone please take this and build it. Let me know if you try, would love to spectate and advise on development.

The key is there shouldn't be a globally consistent front page. Sorting should be done on an individual basis. Upvotes boost signal signal to peers and downvotes squelch. By propagating content scores transitively through the network proportionally to trust scores, users can moderate their own feeds by voting and managing their friend list.

Users have a peer list, containing a list of server/users on it. Each peer has a user-managed 'trust weighting'. Each user has a list of "good content" (ideally hash identified for content addressability), with each item having a score based on that user's votes and votes from peers, weighted by that users trust in that peer.

Periodically, your server contacts all of your peers, and asks them for their good content list. The scores from peers are multiplied by your own trust weight for that peer, and you build a personal "good content" list that merges the lists from each of your peers together (and drops insufficient scores).

You are presented with a score-descending-sorted page of content. Whenever you upvote something, it increases your score weight for that content as well as the trust weight for each peer who sent you the recommendation, and vice versa for downvotes. Votes are transmitted to peers as a crypto signature of the content hash, but when retransmitted to peer-of-peer, they only see the intermediary's aggregated and trust weighted merged scores.

The specifics of the algorithms on how you calculate and adjust weights can be configurable by each individual user, the protocol only cares that peers are able to produce some kind of score list.

Dividing content into topics is a bit trickier, could just label content with tags. I think it may be preferable for each user to have multiple topic focused 'personalities' that are basically distinct user accounts with unique peer lists and votes. In that way, I could follow Dave-gardening without having to follow Dave-sports.

For this example I'm using 1 user per server for simplicity, though not required. All users could be on same server, which is probably best for MVP to avoid implementing p2p networking stuff until validated.


Alice follows Bob with weight of 0.5, Dave with 0.1

Bob scores content A as 0.8, B as 0.2

Dave scored content A as 0.4, B as 0.9

Alice downloads both lists.

Alice score content A as avg(0.8 * 0.5, 0.4 * 0.1) = 0.22

Alice scores content B as avg(0.2 * 0.5, 0.9 * 0.1) = 0.095

Content A gets sorted higher than B.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21011645 (previous discussion)

Except that the direct trust scores are manual rather than algorithmic in your version, isn't that basically the Facebook newsfeed you've reinvented?

It's similar, but decentralized and allows trust to be transitively utilized to find friends-of-friends-of-friends content that you'd like.

I think of my spec as basically just a protocol and think most clients would do the work of adjusting trust scores algorithmically based on the actions you take.

You are misguided in thinking that Reddit is a good source of information. Reddit is heavily biased, very left leaning on any political matters. Most subreddits are echo chambers where anyone who voice a different viewpoint could be down-voted to smithereens. The toxicity there is also too high, some are so eager to use insult to drown out any argument.

Surely there are left-leaning subreddits and right-leaning ones? Although, as anecdata, the purportedly neutral politics sub I frequent is definitely left-leaning (but it's swung back and fro over time).

I checked it out by creating an account. It detected my country as India, and showed the price to jump the waitlist (currently at 60k) as $12.99 a month or $100 a year. Contrast this to (using current conversion rates from INR to USD):

* Netflix here starts at $2.8 for the cheapest (mobile only, single screen) plan and has its highest plan (4K, four screens) at $11.2 a month. Netflix is considered so expensive that account sharing among a few people is quite common.

* Amazon Prime (with two day shipping plus Prime Video and Prime Music) costs about $14 a year.

* A print newspaper subscription of any major national newspaper would cost about $2.8 or even a lot lesser per month.

* An Audible subscription (one free credit a month) costs $2.8 a month, with lower prices on audiobooks and discounts on them.

* Some premium news publications cost about $30-$45 a year.

I'm not saying that this is similar to Netflix or Amazon or a national newspaper, but it's more about how the more popular as well as niche/premium services have priced themselves and how people perceive value. Comparatively, this $12.99/month or $100/year social network focused on news seems like it's meant for some sections of first world inhabitants. It could've probably done better with a currency adjusted or purchasing power parity specific rate. For example, Cloudflare WARP+ costs about $0.97 a month (compared to $4.99 a month in the US).

Having talked about the pricing, the UI doesn't look great either. I saw a list of groups to choose from and the page looked like it was built more than a decade ago. It ought to look like a modern website (with more bells and whistles) if it wants to command more than premium rates. Even Facebook's site, which I think looks outdated, cluttered and ugly, looks better in comparison.

Part of Prime is getting you to give them $120 membership fee so you feel youre getting some kind of bonus buying from them ("free shipping") which reduces comparison shopping. I'm probably not going to buy $100/year memberships to costco, walmart, amazon, and target, even though im half way there and really tempted to pull the trigger on another.

The membership fees almost pay for themselves just in preventing me from going into the store and impulse buying something on a shelf once a month.

As far as Amazon Prime, I have to believe the price of shipping is built into the products, and the membership is for other psychological and behavior control reasons.

Is part of this social network price the same thing. A cost to make it exclusive, acts as a bit of a spam filter. Then after having sunk money into it, you feel the need to make it worthwhile. I never think "ive been watching too much prime I better get my value out of netflix this month" but a communication tool might be different.

I feel that Costco is worth it just based on bulk-buying toilet paper, dish detergent, and such.

I have Costco premium or whatever the highest one is.

Consistently great quality + deals.

Right now they're selling a Costco-sized box of 1,500 Legos for $40.

> a Costco-sized box of 1,500 Legos for $40.

Man, you can't just put information like this out there. I can't be trusted with this knowledge.

Also get the executive. At the end of the year you get back 2% or $60, whichever is higher. So if you can front the extra $60, there's no reason to not do it.

To get the up to $60 refund you have to quit the executive program. You dont get the difference every year, AND get to keep making 2%.

Yeah, I've been eyeing that as a good gift for family. Or myself. I like the old-school stuff that isn't tied to movies or whatever.

I live in a small place so don't buy much in bulk, but pay for at least half my Costco membership in toothbrush heads alone.

we spent enough there that our rebate pays for the membership heh

Is this kind of bulk really much cheaper than walmart?

Yes, and Walmart has a lower quality/price ratio. And people at Costco are nice to communicate with. And Costco treats them well.

I agree with you on the Amazon Prime membership triggering impulse purchases, stickiness with the one day or two day deliveries and of course, shipping built into the products' prices. But Amazon Prime video here (in India) has a lot of local content and gets many new movies quickly onto it. My assessment is that Prime Video is probably a bigger attraction for people here (perhaps with Prime Music) than two day shipping alone (which is not very widely available on many products).

The one nice thing about Prime vs Prime video, is they advertise both prices separately, so we can at least get a peak at what percent of the prime cost amazon thinks video is worth. We know they arent selling Video by itself at a loss, it wouldnt make sense to give away video as a loss leader, if you arent snagging people elsewhere.

I agree Amazon Prime is a trap. Without it the free shipping starts at around €29. That alone makes me bundle my purchases, which hinders impulse buying.

Based on observing Prime members I feel most people would be much better off without the subscription.

This exact reason has helped me stop frivolous purchases as soon as I discontinued my prime membership.

I hate paying for shipping and most of the time the items in my cart are < $25 at which point I ask myself if I really need this item. If I really need it, I go to the target/Wal-Mart near my place since they always price match. Not renewing my prime membership has been by very liberating!

100$s? Amazon prime membership is 1000rs per year, which is less than 14$ a year.

USA prices.

Amazon $119, 5% cash back on Amazon CC, Prime Now has minimums, includes Whole Foods, has music and video included. Video is $108 by itself.

Walmart Grocery $98. (their CC is a 1 year bonus, not forever)

Costco $60-120 (120 price gets you 2% yearly cash back.)

Target Shipt $99, 5% back on Redcard, free Debit Redcard is all thats needed for free standard shipping, shipt is for same day like Now.

At the moment upgrading from 2day/nextday to same day costs around $100/year.

Newspaper prices are offset by advertising costs. It costs a bomb to advertise in newspapers and those are the primary revenue drivers for the newspaper publisher. In the case of Amazon, they are interested in you. You are the primary customer providing them will data points to feed their advertising business. Again, subsidize the cost of Prime membership but get folks to give up data in return. Prime no longer is about hassle free shipping. Prime serves as a vehicle to gobble up all kinds of data to serve their ad business. This is how i look at Amazon and Prime.

Netflix is in the content delivery business, for now. Hence they have to charge full price. If, and when their business model changes to become advertisement driven, you will see changes in the prices charged to end users.

Lucky you. In the US it is $119/yr.

Gotta be smart, I think Amazon technically paid me to have prime one year and this year I've negatived a good chunk of it. Any time they have the 1$ digital credit for delay shipping I select it which then subsidizes a good chunk of my eBook purchases. I think I've had 4$ in credit just this week and have another 1$ I'll get whenever the 5$ shoehorn I ordered yesterday ships.

This post shows how smart Amazon's Prime strategy is. We have someone probably spending thousands of dollars with Amazon (and Amazon taking a good chunk of that in commission) bragging about getting some free ebooks.

And those are e-books that the buyer does not own for ever. Amazon can remove the e-books from its catalog anytime without prior notice.

Oh, I own them forever. You can strip DRM with Calibre via plugins or worst case you can print to PDF from inside Calibre with your Kindle connected.


Besides, I don't think I've ever re-read an eBook. If I think I'll refer to something again I buy it in print.

The only time Amazon has done that, the buyers were refunded (and that's not just Bezos being polite, that's a meaningful legal obligation if it's a purchase).

Spending money I'd spend at a brick and mortar store, that I'd have to drive to using oil life/tire life/gasoline/brake pad life/brake rotor life while also losing time.

Instead, I can think "oh hey I need to get a shoe horn, the heels on the uppers of the slip-ons I wear to church are getting funky" or "ah crap, I forgot to stop and get a new belt on the way home and this one is getting pretty loose on the last notch and I don't think this synthetic material is going to be happy if I punch a new hole" or "instead of driving to 6 stores hoping to find filters for my air purifier, I can buy 2 on Amazon right here on the toilet and be good for the next 2 years" and "my xlear nasal spray is about empty here at work and this heat is really drying my nose out, I'll just order another now instead of waiting until I go to the grocery Saturday" and "I need another USB C cable, this one is starting to get pretty stressed, I'll order one on Amazon instead of driving miles out of my way to go to Walmart or Best Buy hoping they have one".

Those are this week's purchases. All things I needed, all things I would have had to buy somewhere, all things I got a 1$ credit for which I will use towards eBooks I would have purchased either way.

Or last week when I ordered a tofu press, I have no idea where to buy a tofu press in the real world but wasting gobs of paper towels and using books just wasn't doing it for me.

It's not like I opened Amazon in a moment of boredom and said "let's see what I should waste money on today".

> oh hey I need to get a shoe horn,

Related, I went to buy a shoe stretcher on Amazon. Had to buy 3 before I got one that wasn't complete garbage.

I'd have gone to someplace local but none of the local places have much inventory for quality goods anymore either...

For me Amazon is still a net win in regards to convenience, but there are a lot of things I just won't buy.

Heck for a little while earlier this year the official Sonicare page was somehow taken over by people selling knock-off replacement heads, all the links from the manufacturers verified page went to obviously fraudulent misspelled products.

>For me Amazon is still a net win in regards to convenience, but there are a lot of things I just won't buy.

Yeah for me it's mostly books (digital and physical), Amazon basics stuff and stuff I can't get anywhere locally (that I know of) like a tofu press or hard to counterfeit stuff like my televisions/an iPad Air 2/my reconditioned vitamix.

oh wow!! can't amazon create a social network of buyers?

This is why the ad model works better. Local advertisers can bid on his data to show 5 cent ads where someone in northamerica may be worth 5 dollars. Trying to price this as a monthly service removes the ability to offer different prices per region without getting into fairness or causing people to get around the rules by signing up in different regions but watching from another.

They just pointed out that Netflix has different prices per region. Many service providers do.

Netflix has many problems with this model and is currently trying to find a solution. There are services setup to fool netflix into providing content outside of geograpical areas that they are liceased for.

An ad based model is 100% progressive though unlike any normal scheme. For example a homeless guy pay basically nothing for browsing Facebook on his phone even if he lives in USA since his attention is not worth anything.

> An ad based model is 100% progressive though unlike any normal scheme. For example a homeless guy pay basically nothing for browsing Facebook ...

A system in which a poor person making $30k/year and spends $500/year on products or content advertised via Facebook versus a rich person who makes $1M/year and spends $10k on products/content via facebook is not exactly progressive. The poor person ends up paying 1.6% of their income, while the rich person spends 0.1%.

The poor person spends 16X of their takehome earnings than the rich person, not exactly progressive.

I agree that regional or currency based pricing is not easy and comes with its own problems. But Wikipedia is one of those sites that's freely available and used by people around the world. I wouldn't have thought of the Wikipedia founder starting a venture that charges so much. The 2018-2019 fundraising report by Wikimedia Foundation [1] shows that all the countries in Asia combined contributed less than Australia and New Zealand put together. So he/they must have deep insight into how much money comes from where and the respective ability and willingness of people to donate from different places. They could've as well priced it proportionally with some adjustments on that data.

[1]: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Fundraising/2018-19_Report

I'm dealing with this now with my app Polar. We're a cognitive platform for managing knowledge, education, and reading.

You MUST have localized pricing for these types of apps. We're going to cut our pricing for India, and basically all developing nations.

Students too... if you have a university email we'll give you a discount on top of your normal region-specific discounts.

It's a fools errand otherwise. These users will just NOT convert.

The price is not $12.99/month, it's free. The $12.99/month are for those that want to support the service financially, it's donationware similar to wikipedia. Jimmy Wales said the idea is that a small minority will pay for the service for everyone.

>showed the price to jump the waitlist (currently at 60k) as $12.99 a month

That's the cost to jump the waitlist, not the ongoing price for what will be (he hopes) the majority of users. Back when Facebook was Ivy-league only, there were TONS of students I knew who would have paid to get access. As it gets less exclusive the price will come down or become free

> For example, Cloudflare WARP+ costs about $0.97 a month (compared to $4.99 a month in the US).

That's fairly country-dependant - I actually sent some feedback to Cloudflare expressing my disappointment with their pricing - it's currently 5.30 USD in my country with 20% lower purchasing power than the USA.

I recall Cloudflare mentioning something about the priced being proportionate to whatever a Big Mac costs. [1] Perhaps Cloudflare got it wrong with your country or a Big Mac costs a lot more than in the US (that sounds weird)?

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Mac_Index

Canada - Big Mac here is about the same absolute cost as the US before accounting for 20% PPP difference, and then Cloudflare rounded the American price down (from $5.51 to $5) and the Canadian price up (from $6.65 to $7) - so it's only a couple dollars, but it doesn't feel like good value. (Particularly compared to other consumer services, e.g. Apple Arcade, Dropbox, Netflix are only +1 CAD over their USD price starting from a higher base price, Spotify and Apple Music are priced with CAD at par, etc.)

I don't see why this should be expected of any company honestly. If I want to price for the country that I'm trying to sell to, why should I be forced to care about or focus on a market segment that doesn't matter much to me?

My screen was showing that they $100/yr lets you and 200 of your friends jump the waitlist. If you max that out, 50 cents per person isn't so bad.

EDIT: I logged out and back in and it looks like it let me in without paying...

My guess is that they'd get much more (more than 10x) uptake at $1.99 than they will at $12.99.

And they need volume to make it work. So this pricing seems like a big mistake to me.

> showed the price to jump the waitlist ... as $12.99 a month or $100 a year.

Yeah, not a big fan of this. You could buy very nice cloud hosting for $12.99 a month, and run your own instance of a federated social network like Mastodon.

Yeah, my parents are totally going to do that.

You could stand one up and your parents join it? Yes, not everyone can stand up their own self hosted stuff. In fact few of us can. There's a huge missing gap between your phone/desktop applications and just installing and running hosted applications, but I digress.

I stood up a Mastodon instance and invited a bunch of my friends. Only like 3 of us use it, but it's up and connected to the greater Fediverse.

No need to go that far. Maybe one HNer even does that or even wants to do it.

Or join an existing social network with a billion plus users.

Google+, now's your time to shine!

Why is there even a wait list at all? This feels sketchy from first use. And to not be up front about the cost before getting my personal information is, I feel, dishonest.

How can he expect to create a platform of honest people if he is dishonest from the point of account creation?

This is not the way to do it.

Why on earth does it feel sketchy to you. As far as I can tell this service will be devoid of adverts and tracking, which means that it will be entirely funded by subscribers. You can't really expect him to buy all the servers and bandwidth and provide it all to you for nothing out of his own pocket. That's just stupid. It seems to me the idea is that early access subscribers pay for the initial equipment. They then release an initial block of free accounts. As they get more paying subscribers they can invest in more infrastructure and release more free accounts.

If they were just to give accounts out free immediately they would be inundated and the servers might not be able to cope.

This allows them to grow the service organically with paying subscribers supporting the "freeloaders".

Hope that clears it up.

Just say that up front. Before i put in an email address.

Current wait list: 60,000 people (estimated hold time 30 days) but you can jump the queue for $12.99/mo or $100/yr.

Done. Honest. Transparent.

The site's current account flow is infected with dark patterns and turns off those familiar with them, like me.

Yeah. I knew (from TFA) that there was a charge to jump the queue. But there's no mention of that on the signup page. And no mention that they don't accept ~anonymous payments.

> seems like it's meant for some sections of first world inhabitants

Perfect great!

Imagine it’s intentional and a pretty effective way of doing business

Now lets just critique why it isn’t a luxury brand

Expensive luxury prices are fine for certain products but can be detrimental to social and communication tools.

I can easily afford this product myself but I don’t want to pay for a social network if a portion of my friends/contacts are priced out.

Yes, I can understand that.

But Facebook's model, for instance, also prices people out. I am entirely unwilling to use Facebook because I consider it far too expensive. True, I'm paying with data rather than cash, but it's still paying. From my point of view, $12.99/mo is actually cheaper (assuming that paying that means I'm not going to be datamined).

Being “priced out” because you personally value your data more than others is a valid viewpoint, but that’s not the same thing as being priced out because you don’t have money.

That seems like a difference in viewpoint. I can understand your stance, but I don't share it. To me, being "priced out" means that something costs more than you are willing and able to pay.

Fair enough. I was just trying say that being unwilling to pay is very different than being unable to pay.

Charging a high price for a luxury brand is a fine business model but I wouldn’t consider a product accessible to only some socioeconomic groups to a be a Facebook competitor (as indicated in the article).

My general observation (anecdotal) is that people are more willing to pay a whole lot more for physical goods than for services (including apps, content and Internet connectivity).

Depends on the signaling value of the apps and content. Remember that one of the first iPhone apps was one that cost $500 and did nothing but print "I am rich" to the screen.

it probably cost less than $1/month to host the average user... this is just craziness

Previously someone mentioned the idea of a $1/mo. social network.

I think if someone were to make facebook in it's first ~2 years and keep it very basic it we would be good to go. The only features you need are: a profile picture, a wall, chat, and events.

In other words - a photo of yourself, a way of publicly messaging, a way of privately messaging, and a way to coordinate social events.

What else do you need for a 'social network?'

I would pay $1/mo for that. The simpler the better.

I wish there was a text only social network - I think it would reduce the influence of memes. HN is kind of like that, though I guess you really just need a tightly curated community with a good culture that wants to be good (since reddit comments still are pretty low quality in most cases).

Text only twitter would be interesting since you can curate your own slice of the community pretty easily, as a bonus it'd be fast.

Low effort ascii art was a mainstay on digg back in the day, I think moderation is more key.

someone is attempting to build a curated internet for each other, check this out:


You can curate your reddit feed to include only text posts and links

Surely making text only instance (or network) of Mastodon wouldn't huge endeavor. Attracting people could be bigger challenge

How will that be different from a messages or WhatsApp group?


I would pay $1/mo for a chronological feed of my friends' updates and posts.

I found Twitter and Facebook to be frustratingly unusable after they removed their chronological feeds in favor of feeds that prioritize ads and engagement.

Isn't Twitter properly chronological with 'Latest Tweets' turned on? For a while that setting would frequently reset to the non-chronological default, but at the moment it seems to be sticky. (I mostly use Twitter in a web browser, but I think the Android app is working the same way.)

We had it and it was beautiful: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/FriendFeed


I was wondering why it needed to be such a jarring price. $13 per month? Really? What’s the bandwidth cost on text and a few images in S3?

Critical mass is obviously the barrier to building something like this but I’m inclined to agree that charging $1/month and $10 a year should be able to turn a healthy profit.

I do kind of wonder if the public is even aware of the problem, though. Anyone I’ve spoken to outside the industry seems to genuinely believe that folks with different opinions to them are stupid (rather than sorted into a different branch of Facebook/Google’s great graph of knowledge for their daily programming).

What costs more is not hardware but the salaries of employees.

> What else do you need for a 'social network?'

Mass adoption. The user base is the valuable aspect, everything else can be easily recreated.

Besides the advantage of an already established network - what are facebooks other advantages?

I suppose money is the biggest. are there others?

>Besides the advantage of an already established network - what are facebooks other advantages?

Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

Sophisticated technology. I don't really use or like FB, but from what I have seen: stable and fast DB, intuitive, clean UI, lots of features. No hazzle to join.

But biggest is network effect.

You get adoption by datamining and autoenrollment so that when people do finally sign in/up.. they already have a network.

Not creepy at all..?

>Previously someone mentioned the idea of a $1/mo. social network.

Didn't WhatsApp used to be $1 a year before Facebook bought them and it was a very successful pricing model?

$1 a year for a website is very feasible for both parties assuming it's some Western society.

>Didn't WhatsApp used to be $1 a year before Facebook bought them and it was a very successful pricing model?

I was hounded and paid £0.69 to renew the 'subscription' ─ which was subsequently offered for free to everyone, shortly thereafter. I felt betrayed, but I would happily pay the same amount today (or slightly more), if only to preserve some shred of privacy.

Facebook pulls an average revenue of $70/year on each American user, so $1/mo is leaving a lot of money on the table by their standard

I don't think anyone expects this other option to be as profitable as facebook. If you actually managed to create something 1/7th the size/profitability of facebook and considered it a failure I guess I'd suggest you might legitimately suffer from visions of grandeur.

They used to say that at Signup, first year free, then again waive $1 every year in India.

I wish Twitter did this. I still think in person meetings are the best, followed by phone calls and emails (when in person socializing isn't possible). I really don't miss a site like Facebook.

But Twitter's use case is different - it is nice to have a place to check for quick updates from federal governments to our local post office and everyone in between, including thought leaders and such.

I would say you also need Groups. But I love the idea.

I've been hacking at a basic version of ad-free, subscription based group messaging, coordination, event planning, etc - check it out! https://get.thread-app.com/

I really liked the idea of Google+ Circles when they first came out. It allowed me to organize people I interacted with into a focused group; work, Linux, TF2, etc. If I wanted to talk about AWS, I could switch my brain into that mode and just post things about a single topic. It was really nice.

Anyone remember app.net?

I sure do. I miss it. I think it was doomed the moment it went freemium instead of strictly pay.

Yeah I feel like it's a very similar idea, however WhatsApp did get it's start for $1 a year after the first year iirc?

Did that make WhatsApp any money?

Yes, it had hundreds of millions of users.

All the ideas regarding $1-2/mo social networks seem to forget the enormous cost of moderating content on these social networks. Let's say your social network is $3/mo and people can upload unlimited photos. How long does it take for child porn to start getting shared on your service? Probably not long. That's not even getting into users harassing other users, and stuff like that. Volunteer moderators do the work on reddit for free because they get to feel ownership of their subreddits (until they try to delete them if they're popular, then the admins step in), but on a "normal" social network no one is going to moderate the content for free, especially not the horrible stuff people will post.

The problem I always have is "all my friends". I joined MSN messenger in the 2003(ish) only because that was the only away to join my friends. Facebook came next, and what's app moved them over to that. When it comes to " social media", the clue is in the name.

What is the solution?

A system that using a unique ID I can contact anyone else in the world, the two methods are voice or message. :)

My friends and I are currently building a donation platform for summer camp counselor alumni, church groups, etc. Basically small monthly reoccurring donations ($3-$20). We’ve been playing with the idea of having a social network aspect where to join you pick an organization to donate to and that’s your subscription for using the social network at large

$20/month?!? Forever?!?

It’s for a charity of your choice, so if you have the money, it’s an option. That’s why the base is $3

To charity. That's $240 to charity a year. Is that so much to sacrifice?

Depending on where you find the data, a lot of Americans live paycheck to paycheck [1]. An extra $240 a year will certainly help a lot of people out there, not just in America. That's why free services like Google and Facebook continue to win out. I really like what some companies in the gaming sector have achieved where the richer subsidize the poorer via buying hats and other cosmetics to keep the game free or lower priced.

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/24/most-americans-live-paycheck...

Where did I say $240/ year is the baseline

> Previously someone mentioned the idea of a $1/mo. social network.

Dalton Caldwell currently chief of admissions at YC, tried exactly this at App.net a couple of years ago.


I've been working on exactly this! https://get.thread-app.com/

It's a side project of mine at the moment, so it's quite basic, but I'd love it if you checked it out.

Seems to require a phone number? Won't be for me...

Well, https://dubfi.com/ is there already and it's free. And yes, it's coded by me.

I would pay $1 to remove each feature that annoyed me. It may cost me $10, but my quality of life would significantly increase, while not being a total pariah.

Groups, images / albums, tagging, friends.

This, though there is a very real problem of a mass-adopted online payment method where that $1 transaction is a net profit.

The challenge is getting a critical mass of users to encourage people beyond just early adopters. Perhaps the new service could seed new users' accounts by offering to import their content/contacts/etc from their other social media accounts.

Or, just accept that it takes a long time to build a successful business.

Why would you use that instead of FB though? FB is free and most people are on it already.

Yeah, considering it's basically just a glorified CRUD app!

Events are the thing that keep me and my peers using it.

I’ve been using https://gath.io to organize events. All you need is an email to create an event, and as far as I can tell, you can give it a fake email. It’s only used to send you the edit link (also displayed when you create the event). Same thing to RSVP, although it doesn’t share the link to remove yourself except by email, to my knowledge. They’ve just introduced groups, so setting up events for a group of friends is really easy. Bonus is that it’s open source and the person who maintains it has been really responsive to requests.

Oh man, this looks like exactly what I want. Will be trying this for next event I plan.



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