Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

> [TikTok]'s addiction-based advertising machine is probably close to the theoretical maximum of how many advertisements one can pour down somebody’s throat.

Well put. It's interesting that we pivoted in my adult lifetime from:

1. Myspace's emphasis on sharing things on your own webpage, essentially a hosted blog 2. Facebook's evolution from "hosted blog" to "friend update aggregator" to "chat client" to "friend update & ad aggregator" 3. Instagram's callback to simple update sharing (with pictures) and a chronological ad-free news feed 4. Snap's emphemeral sharing 5. Facebook's slow agglomeration and bastardization of all of the features that made Instagram and Snap distinct. 6. TikTok's addictive advertising machine that barely includes any friend connections at all.

Initially I was concerned that this would mean the death of real social media, just like the article initially suggests. But I really like the conclusion the article ultimately comes to: we basically don't have social media right now, we have advertising engines masquerading as social media. Better that Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat show their true colors and become disgusting advertising machines just like TikTok.

If we're lucky, that means a federated, open, mostly-ad-and-suggestion-free open source social media experience can fill the power vacuum for intimate, interpersonal, high-latency communication over the internet. microblog seems promising, but I think even mastodon could provide the experience I'm looking for.




> If we're lucky, that means a federated, open, mostly-ad-and-suggestion-free open source social media experience can fill the power vacuum for intimate, interpersonal, high-latency communication over the internet.

I don't have as much hope for such a thing. To me, this trend is also a reflection of perhaps the societal devaluing of IRL social connections.

In a world where encountering "new people" was novel, and typically done only In Real Life, maintaining that connection using an online component had value. You may not encounter that person again, and good connections are rare, so you want to keep in touch. However, over time, the internet has made it trivial to encounter new people, even if the encounters themselves are more trivial than the previous In Real Life meetings were. Perhaps there was a two-way conversation before. Well now, you just read their tweets or watch their videos and click a button to follow.

Tracking real-life encounters isn't as valuable as it once was, especially when you can find an online substitute who is actively creating "content" to keep you engaged.

The newer connections are also way more transactional than they used to be. Just about everyone is selling something or trying to use their channels to promote themselves somehow.

I think there's an interesting overall trend in here between the fall of social networks and societal devaluing of real life connections (as well as a trend of them being more transactional), but I'm not an academic, so these are all just hunches.


This isn’t fundamentally different than urbanization. And this has been bemoaned as far back as we have history.

I’m older. I used PCs without modems. I didn’t have access to the internet until I was 15, and I was ahead of the curve. So I didn’t grow up with social media. But I was a heavy user. Now this an a relatively anonymous Twitter account are all I have left. Every time one evolves past me being able to have conversations, I move on.

But through all of that, nothing has really changed. I have my handful of friends. I have the restaurants where they know my order when I walk in. My kids still play with the neighbor 2 doors down.

In urban settings where people are swarmed by other people, they form little communities. The dynamic isn’t much different than a small town. There’s just irrelevant people moving around and through it.

That all said, I’m thinking about moving to “the sticks.” So maybe that’s just my family and I maintaining an old world view I’m attracted to.

Facebook? I’d rather be fishing.


The lie of social media was that you can replace your social circle entirely with exact copies of yourself. But that’s highly boring as hell.


I lived very briefly in Manhattan near Lincoln Center. There was a bar about three blocks from the apartment that was very pleasant, and it was 90% always the same people from the neighborhood. We all knew each other. It was weird being in this city of about six million (at that time) and still have this very small conclave (forty people?) that frequented this one bar.


Personally I've just stopped using social media because there's no reason to have the type of reach it gives you unless you're, well, advertising (whether that's yourself and/or personal brand, a product, a political position, etc.). However, even though rare, every once in a few years I really do need to reach out to someone I don't regularly talk to digitally or get in touch with someone I was much more connected to previously. I think there's truly a place for a hyper pared down "global phone book" type of application.

In terms of real connections: I prefer to share things that matter in my life directly with people who care to hear about it. And, notably it has advantages you lose on social platforms like being able to read the room, having a pretense of trust and assumption of goodwill and intent, synchronous engagement that makes true debate possible, and most importantly speech is not regulated. You can have a beer and speak your mind amongst real friends.

In my opinion, it's not real connections that are being devalued, it's needing to uphold the illusion that you have 1600 of them that is tiring and obnoxious (and simply not possible). Where I think you're onto something is that I'd say it's less important that real connections start IRL. It's perfectly normal to meet someone online and become close, possibly eventually turning into an IRL friendship, too. So I agree that it's less important to maintain "friendships" in the way that those of us who had FB in HS thought was going to matter in a social media world. But I don't agree that that means "real" connections are being devalued. Most people are just fine with ~10 real good friends and some family here and there.


>I think there's truly a place for a hyper pared down "global phone book" type of application.

We have this: Facebook. At least that's what I use it for. I keep a list of most of my friends there, and use it to chat with many of them, including video chat. I don't post anything, ever, and almost never look at anyone else's posts. It's just a glorified "friend phone book and chat app".


I don't have a problem with people using Facebook this way -- that's cool if it fills this function for you!

It is unfortunate though that as "a glorified phone book" Facebook engages in so many practices that are creepy and intrusive. I think that if Facebook did just provide phonebook-like functionality I would be so interested in using it. Instead, it feels more like an application(s) built to serve ads that happens to provide some phonebook functionality.

But, ultimately Meta's business model won't change for users like me -- and I don't blame them. And they don't necessarily need to change because although everyone seems to dislike the practices they engage in, nobody really quits Facebook.


IMO there is little value in actually quitting facebook.

If you aren't using their apps and block their embeds on third-party sites it just sits there and allows you to be what our parents described as a global phone book.

I deleted everything I uploaded, unfollowed everyone, locked it down and made a backup. Most of their indeed very creepy practices are optional.

edit: this is also probably a good learning for other services: have a working non obstrusive mode to retain almost-off users.


>I think that if Facebook did just provide phonebook-like functionality I would be so interested in using it. Instead, it feels more like an application(s) built to serve ads that happens to provide some phonebook functionality.

For me, this is exactly how it works. I never see any ads.


Sure, that's how I use it too. I'm saying it would be nice to have an application that's just that without all the other abusive BS. I think everyone could get onboard that train. Right now FB doesn't fully work because a non-trivial portion of people I know refuse to use FB anymore. That's great! But something needs to fill the "global phonebook" void. I'd pay $3 a month to have my name in a global phonebook and in return get access to one with the sole feature of being able to make my own list and govern who is allowed to see certain fields. Maybe I should just put my details in DNS...


But by participating in Facebook (even just leaving your account there!) you contribute to the network effect and make Facebook seem more useful to others. This helps Facebook snare other, less tech-savvy individuals in their dark patterns of ads and engagement. I don't it goes without saying that people who spend too much time on Facebook these days suffer psychologically for it.

I know that for you it's just a "friend phone book and chat app" but for others it's basically a casino. Consider deleting your account and keeping in touch with your friends via other mediums (email, text, letters, and phone calls go a long way!) instead, for the good of the community at large.


>But by participating in Facebook (even just leaving your account there!) you contribute to the network effect and make Facebook seem more useful to others. This helps Facebook snare other, less tech-savvy individuals

That sucks, but there's no better alternative just yet.

>Consider deleting your account and keeping in touch with your friends via other mediums (email, text, letters, and phone calls go a long way!)

Ok, I've considered it. No. It's stupid. Phone calls are horrifically expensive and don't have video, and letters cost a fortune to send across oceans. If you want to be a Luddite, go ahead.


This is probably the reason I was trying to limit my friend count to the very minimal figure (a little over 100), as I wanted to share my story to those who cared to listen to it. Though since Facebook started to deploy Discovery Engine, I have decided to stop using it (Deactivate the main account, leave Messenger available for contacts). I wanted to be more "connected", not having them scattered.


How is over 100 friends minimal?


The average person has about 150 people they care about. 100 friends is par for the course imo


Do you have a source for that? From a quick search:

[0] indicates the average number of friends is roughly 9

[1] indicates the number is roughly 5

[2] indicates the number is roughly 16

--

[0] https://news.gallup.com/poll/10891/americans-satisfied-numbe...

[1] https://www.americansurveycenter.org/research/the-state-of-a...

[2] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/friends-adults-amer...


150? What about 5-10? I don't believe you can have 150 people you really care for.


There are actual close friends, and then there are people you know or care about to some degree. Dunbar's number (somewhere between 100 and 250) describes the latter.

That may include extended family, neighbors, coworkers, your acquaintances from hobbies/bar/church/whatever. They're not all close friends or immediate family, but still people that you sometimes interact with, and might want to contact.


Not really care for, but the number of relationships you can keep track of:

"By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar%27s_number


That's what I meant to say. FB friends = friends + acquaintances, which should be around 150 for average people


I wouldn't say that the figure of Facebook friends is an indication of number of people I really cared. I do care some of them (sometimes sending wishes for them), but a majority of them are either my classmate in high school, a junior in university, a (former) co-worker, or someone whom I met in social gathering that shared common interests and wanted to hear/talk with them. It's like the use of Facebook as a directory since everyone has one.

Conversely, there are plenty of friends whom I know personally, but did not connect via Facebook (we use IM for that). This may probably be counted towards the close friends I really cared for; only few (no more than 10) people fits this criteria of mine.


At the time I deleted my Facebook account, I had a total of twenty friends. And all of them were people from where I moved away from, or people that moved away from me.

Family, and local friends, I did not friend on Facebook, because I was going to see you anyway.

My mom asked why I wouldn't 'friend' her, and I responded that I talked to her on the phone for 60-90 minutes every single weekend. Without fail. Plus, I used to snail mail her printed photos on a regular basis.

When she died, I found two boxes crammed with every photo I ever sent her.


I had a difficult time trying to understand your writing, but in the end it seems that you’re actually proving the point of the person that you’re disagreeing with? Your example of having 1600 friends and then most people being content with ~10 friends is exactly what the commenter meant with devaluing social connections.


I dunno, it made sense to me. The simplified thesis (perhaps with my own slight spin on it) is that a huge number of connections never really existed, and what's observed as a devaluation of things with inherent value is really more like a realization that the things in question had little to no real value, and a calculus that does assign them great value (without significantly diluting the word "friend") is flawed.


This.


I just use discord for friends and WhatsApp for family, Instagram for documenting life


> The newer connections are also way more transactional than they used to be. Just about everyone is selling something or trying to use their channels to promote themselves somehow.

Boy is this off-putting. Even amateur athletes and nobodies in hobbies I follow on Instagram are pimping anything and everything. I can't hate someone for trying to make a buck, especially as full-time athletes in non-lucrative sports, but it really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

But not as bad as the taste of protein from anywhere other than Mega Protein Source! Use code THISSHTSUX for 10% off of your next purchase!


Instagram has spiraled down a hole with the introduction of reels. I was an early adopter of Instagram, and where it has headed, sucks.

I deleted my Facebook account pre-COVID, and I don't miss it at all. And my Instagram account is next. It brings me no joy anymore. It has not for several months now.

My only online 'social' activity now doesn't involve any IRL friends at all. About three or four really pleasant Reddit groups that actually help people learning new skills, or trading ideas they have tried. So little snark, it is refreshing as can be.


For me it seems that social media services encourage people to build huge social networks with people you barely know. I visit facebook, it suggests me to add to friends some people I worked with 15 years ago and barely talked to back then, but it detected that we had many common friends and assumes that I want to connect to those people.

Well, I don't. I don't care about them.

But I guess that most people do connect. When I inspect other people profiles, they might have 100 or even more "friends". I have may be 5 friends in my life and may be 20 people I barely know.

The solution is simple. Social network services should develop algorithms to reduce that clutter. Unfriend everyone, keep only those that you actively engage with often. People should keep their social circles small by default and social network services must encourage this behaviour. This is natural for human. Yes, I guess some people do have 100 friends in their real life, but that must be a rare exception.

Just because I know that guy name and he was introduced to me 10 years ago, does not mean that I want to have any connection to that guy in facebook. If facebook knows that we have friends in common, very well, present me that information when I stumble upon this guy. Like I saw his comment in some public community and next to his name add "1 common friend". But don't push that information to me without reason.

May be we should get rid of this "friends" feature at all. Just add ability to follow someone and that's about it. It must be asymmetrical and there must not be a way for someone to know whether am I following him or not. And, I'll repeat it again, never do not suggest me who I should follow. I'll find out it myself.

I think that messengers like telegram are winning because they follow this model. Telegram never asked me to add a "friend". I naturally have some chats that I'm interested with and that's better way to communicate.


Look at monica crm https://github.com/monicahq/monica. I've yet to offer to start hosting it for people, but that could be a neat conversation piece for changing the tides there.


I think the GP’s point was that social relationships are increasingly becoming irrelevant to people. Having a personal relationship CRM seems cool, but this shift in society is happening not for lack of good social tools.


In my view this shift is happening because of social media. The social media short cut to having friends turned out to not really work, and now people are trying to figure out how to have friends again. It's the same with dating.


But why didn't it work?

Is it because it's impossible to maintain meaningful relationships over the internet? My experience in the online forum and gaming communities implies otherwise -- some of my most meaningful friendships started (and continue) in those communities.

I suspect, instead, that it didn't work because Facebook murdered it. They abused dark patterns, injected ads, suggested content, radicalized grandmothers, and hacked engagement to the point where relationships didn't just stagnate, they withered and died because they were hidden and forgotten.

I have a lot of chats and friends in Telegram, and it's very easy to maintain those chats over time because I have a chronological feed of interactions right in the app. Facebook hid and diluted an entire medium, their original focus, "posts from friends" in favor of content they thought you might engage with more. Facebook chat exists, sure, but app invite spam diluted that to hell just the same, so it doesn't have the same chronological list of meaningful conversations that I have in Telegram. And notification spam diluted the meaning of any new developments on Facebook -- comment replies, messages, whatever.

And now, Facebook pushes videos, "TV", reels, stories, and god only knows what else instead of just letting me see posts from my friends and family. I think it's fair to say that online social relationships can work... they just don't work in a hostile environment. It's kind of like maintaining your friendships only in the middle of Times Square, surrounded by ads, tourists, and costumed performers trying to scam you out of $20 for a picture. Not impossible, but eventually you'll get tired of it.


Yeah, it seems like people are doubling down on a losing strategy. The real solution is usually involves going outside your front door and meet people. The same is true with dating.


> The same is true with dating

Over the last 25 years, all but one of the people I've dated, have been people I met online, including the mother of my son. Most of them have been people who I'd never have crossed paths with if it wasn't for meeting them online.

Under no circumstance do I want to go back to the horror of relying on meeting people offline, without being able to quickly filter out people I'm not compatible with first.


It's the aggressive filtering that has caused online dating to fail


And meeting people unlike yourself in at least some ways - social media is designed to help you find identical clones of yourself.


I don't think most people actually get to know like minded individuals on social media. They just flock together on specific topics and don't associate where they disagree. When you meet people in the real world, chances are you are unlike in some ways by default. People just don't express their differences in superficial context. You don't find the differences unless you ask and listen. At least that's been my experience meeting people.


Doesn't social media replace meat-space friendships?

Is there a species of 'Tinder'... for finding friends?


“I think the GP’s point was that social relationships are increasingly becoming irrelevant to people”

I have a hard time believing this is generally true.


I wonder where the split is, and for what demographics this is/isn't true for. It's been true for at least a few years for my (small) circle and I.

I also wonder if this is a (temporary) side effect of larger societal issues. It certainly feels like all of my old relationships are trending towards hyperpolitical interactions (even ones where we agree on most topics) and/or transactional/performative obligations. In the city I live in now, I've yet to meet anyone that feels like a decent enough human being to even want to be friends with. Maybe the problem is me, or widespread cynicism, or people concerned with bigger issues than just friendships. I don't know, but I don't really see any reason to put effort into making and tending friendships (especially IRL friendships) anymore. I'd much rather have relationships where I can come and go as I want or have time (online groups, meetups, hobbies, being friendly to strangers, etc) without worrying about all the added context of "are we friends?" and everything that entails.


My wife and I are in our mid-30’s and have a young child. Both of those transitions have led to the depreciation of some old friendships and the blossoming of new ones. Life is too full to be social to the same extent as when we were younger, but the friendships we have now (though fewer) are stronger in some important ways and more diverse in age, ethnic background, etc and so on.

I would say add that we tend to hang with people that engage in active hobbies and probably consume somewhat less media than average. But maybe I’m just reasoning backwards there…

Aside: if you happen to live in Minneapolis - I’d be happy to buy you a coffee sometime.


The risk of focusing on more transient relationships is that in the long run you won't reap the benefits of compounding interest, which is arguably where all the best stuff in life comes from: https://nav.al/long-term


An interesting concept, but towards the end they chop the very foundation right out from under their argument with a brief rant about socialists with guns and knives wanting pie.

Someone who is antisocial, and just in it for their own profit would say exactly that, and that's exactly the type of person you don't want long-term relationships with.


I was looking into using this recently, but the project seems to be somewhat stalled. It’s gone from regular monthly releases, up to February this year, to nothing for months, not a good sign for something I’m considering adopting to maintain an important part of my life.

Between this and some syncing issues that didn’t yet have fixes, I dropped it before putting in the effort to get fully on board and I still need to find a replacement.


Stalled or relatively stable? If the software changed out from under you every single day with daily updates, would that make it more worthy of considering adopting for long-term use? Or would you still think it was not a good sign because you hadn't gotten an update in the last few hours? If they did hourly releases, would you still look askance at it because it had been 6 minutes since the last release?

People's ideas of update cadence are interesting. I find it really odd that people want to have to run frequent updates and want to use unstable software for the important things nowadays. For important things, I prefer stuff that'll still run and work the same in 20 years.


I think having a regular scheduled monthly update to a PHP web application with a web based UI as well as using WebDAV features intended to synchronise with an array of third party (often proprietary) software that you probably have exposed on the internet… isn’t that weird. You want to make sure you keep up with security updates and have a chance to regularly incorporate contributions from an active community of users.

A contributing factor to the “stalled” impression was that the original team/developers had publicly announced a new product March 2022… the exact same month that regular updates stopped.


I've been using monica for more than a year now, super helpful in keeping track of birthdays and important events.


> I don't have as much hope for such a thing. To me, this trend is also a reflection of perhaps the societal devaluing of IRL social connections.

I see it instead as a recalibration of traditional social interaction. We didn't used to be obsessed with the lives of 500 loosely related people. We cared very narrowly about our immediate friends and families. Occasionally someone would mention a funny anecdote about a friend of a friend. Without social media we go back to our evolutionary default. I've already embraced this way of living again and it's wonderful.


That is a well thought out and incredibly depressing theory.


I think it might just be that that’s not needed anymore.

The social networks of the past were useful as a way to keep in touch with people. MySpace, early Facebook, and the countless others from back then. Now everyone’s online 24/7, and accessible on multiple services all at the same time, all the time. You don’t need social networks to keep in touch with anyone anymore, their original raison d'être is gone.

What’s sought after now is meeting -other-, new, like-minded people and content. For that we have twitter, Reddit, TikTok, and whatnot. People want their bubbles. We’re all here on HN for that exact purpose.


> People want their bubbles. We’re all here on HN for that exact purpose.

100% disagree. I'm here to find ideas I disagree with and tell people how they're wrong. I'm not looking for an agreeable experience here. I'm also here to learn about new tech.


I 100% disagree with your idea that you, or anyone for that matter, is just here to disagree with other people’s ideas. Nobody disagrees with stuff just for the sake of disagreement. Who would do such a thing?

Don’t bother answering that question though because you’d be wrong.


Oh I'm sorry, is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?


> Oh I'm sorry, is this a five minute argument, or the full half hour?

It's abuse.


I have a feeling that a lot of people replying to you completely missed what you were doing with your comment. That's a shame, because well done.


This isn't an argument, it's just contradiction!


No it isn't.


I feel like I’m watching you cosplay what I see 20 times a day on Reddit and why I’ve increasingly stopped browsing it.


You're not wrong. But, you're not right either.


Neither of you aren't not wrong.


Everyone is wrong, we live in a wonderful world where everyone can be wrong.


They can't both be not wrong.


I disagree, but I can't agree either. Do we have a deal?


I was going more for getting the classic response, from the old story:

Two men disagree and they bring a local wise man to listen to them. He listens to the first guy making his case, and tells him:

- You're right.

The other guy protests: Hey, here my side too. So the wise man listens to his side of the story too, and then tells him:

- You're right.

A bystandander witnessing this scene then calls out to the wise man:

- They can't both be right!

And the wise man says:

- You're right, too!


So true, reb Tevye.


the right word is "irrelevant".


> I 100% disagree with your idea that you, or anyone for that matter, is just here to disagree with other people’s ideas. Nobody disagrees with stuff just for the sake of disagreement. Who would do such a thing?

You must be new here.


Either that, or you are, having apparently missed the obvious irony (mostly in the sentence you didn't quote)...


Comprehending nuance isn't one of your strong points, is it?


It's ok I'm perfectly ok with my old ance.


It's spelled "newance". ;)


Bubbles don't need to be harmful. HN is a bubble. There are ideas that are not allowed here. There are other ideas that are explicitly promoted. This is the value proposition of HN. You are free to go elsewhere to get other perspectives or interactions. This is as it should be.


> There are ideas that are not allowed here.

It would be more accurate to say that some ideas require more work here. The reasons why are open to debate.


Here's an HN bubble aspect.

You can't use any title you want, for example, they will regularly edit the title and thus effectively change the general meaning of the submission as read by most folks who just skim titles. Which has the knock on effect of making the post less (or more) desirable for users to read/upvote.

For example titles starting with "How I ..." are auto stripped to "I ..." there are quite a few other similar auto editorial changes.

There is no way round this that I know of, so those parts of an idea are non-negotiable and not re-workable.

I have seen instances where this practice completely ruins an otherwise excellent submission that would have been #1 on HN in days of old.


I'm not convinced the title rules on HN are having a major impact on which stories get upvotes on a frequent basis, but that's just my intuition and you may be massively right.

In which case I urge you to, when you see an example where you think the policy has indeed had a negative effect (which I'd also suggest isn't quite as basic as "did it lower the expected number of upvotes" but also "and not because it removed clickbait from the title"), either comment mentioning dang's name and saying why you feel that, or send him an email to the same effect (hn@ycombinator.com)

Not only have I often seen him engage in discussion and be open to changes for a submission when people felt a title shouldn't exactly fit HN's usual rules, but I'd also expect him to be open to changing the rules themselves if your feedback leads to his agreeing that there's a trend of submissions having the meaning of their title unfairly changed due to the generally good rules.

All that said, it's not really an example of a "HN bubble", nor of an "idea" that isn't allowed on HN.


Super helpful reply, thanks! I'm not on the site too much these days but will send any that I notice!


If someone did a show HN, for their murder for hire app to connect assains to clients, i imagine it would (rightly) go over poorly.

At least i would hope...


Unless they wrote it in Rust, in which case it would be received with great praise


Very funny...

But have you considered the countless lives that were lost due to bugs from memory-unsafe languages over the past ~70 years? A murder-for-hire app in Rust would still cost us less lives overall, if it increases the popularity and adoption of memory-safe languages elsewhere. It's a just cause, one could say.

I, for one, am very happy with how the assassination story of Rust is coming along!


Rust has rusted all of your brains. It really does what its name says!


I mean it makes sense. Memory safety >> Human Safety.


I think it would actually probably hit the top spot if it was a legitimate attempt that used crypto, E2E, provable security, maybe TOR. There's only one example in history AFAIK and it only lasted a short while. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_market


Depends, did they write the website in PHP?


People have a lot of sympathy here for Silk Road, which was in this business.


Silk road was primarily in the drug business not the murder for hire business. Drug deregulation is a pretty popular view at hn.


There are definitely ideas that are not allowed here.


I’m not sure there are ideas that aren’t allowed so much as the way you speak, structure, and present them. I’ve tested many different ideas on topics here and some have received far more positive feedback than I’d imagine and some have been buried too.

I think so long as you follow guidelines generally and don’t outright attack individuals then you’re mainly ok. The community might downvote your idea to invisible but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t allowed - just that not enough people thought it was good. That’s fair.


>The community might downvote your idea to invisible but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t allowed

This might be a nitpick, but this depends on your POV of who's allowing/disallowing content.

HN itself allows a lot of comments that the collective HN community does not allow -- by downvoting them into invisibility.


Right, but I do think there’s a general fairness. It isn’t as biased one way or another as any places I feel.


I can't think of any non-rulebreaking comments that would get you banned just for expressing a distasteful idea. Can you give some examples?


“non-rulebreaking” implies that there are rules stating that certain ideas are not allowed.


No it doesn't. The rules can be based around the effort, structure, and tone of your comments. Not the ideas expressed within them. I think the only "idea" not allowed is asking for violence and I've even seen those allowed.


Politics as a subject is strongly discraged on HN.

It isn’t about Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian ideas it’s about their red button talking points. So you can discuss say taxes or abortion as long as you don't bring politics into it or get repetitive.

What most often confuses people is you can get heavily downvoted or upvoted for expressing the same idea depending on who shows up to a given discussion about say Nuclear power, Bitcoin, etc.


No I can't, because my account would get banned. Probably under the pretext of the stated rule, "Eschew flamebait. Avoid unrelated controversies, generic tangents, and internet tropes."


Those seem to be based around the relationship of the comment to the post it is in rather than any specific idea in the comment itself. As if any comment flagged for those reasons could have the same idea expressed in a relevant post and not be flagged.


That is what the text of the rules say, but not how they actually operate.


I tried to give you an answer. It only took about 90 seconds for my post to get deleted.


The ideas that break the rules.


There aren't any ideas that break the rules though. Just structure, tone, and context of comments/posts.


I don’t think that’s true.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32432564


Trying expressing certain looked down upon ideas politely and with a good structure, gentle tone, and within context, and see how far you go...


@dang has been explicit that they deem certain topics “inherent flame wars” and ban discussion because it upsets people.

Certain ideas aren’t allowed here — even when calmly stated and cited with evidence.

For example, citing the clip of the BLM founder saying she’s a “trained Marxist” would get you banned: HN was in flat out denial, even though it was her own words on film [1]. She is literally answering a question about the ideology behind BLM.

Unfortunately, that kind of censorship enabled BLM to commit the fraud they did [2].

[1] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YM5zUwiCTzw

[2] - https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/amazon-boots-black-l...


What's hilarious is that this is still up three hours after posting with not even a reply. So much for censorship. You're totally allowed to post that here, even while conflating one charity with a continent-wide protest movement, one leader's out of context quote with the goals of that movement, and one enforcement action by Amazon Smile with an accusation of "fraud".

For those interested in whether there's any truth in those links (there is! though maybe not nearly as juicy as promised), Wikipedia has a great overview as always: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Lives_Matter_Global_Netw...


It was flagged and dead almost immediately then zmgsabst made another post [1] linking to the dead post and someone vouched for the dead post you see here.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32432791


Maybe because it's relevant to the discussion in the thread.

How many other times do you think it'd be appropriate to bring up the same topic? Probably very few, and it would get deleted if not.


Ignoring or de-facto shadow-banning is also a form of censorship.


I’ll keep saying it. Nobody has a right to an audience. Ignoring something isn’t censorship.


Shouldn't I get to decide what I ignore?


Again, ignoring and censoring aren't the same thing.

Part of the reason I come to HN is that I know there are entire classes of content and ideas that I will not be exposed to at all so I don't have to waste brain cycles on sorting them.

Similarly I use a spam filter on my email.


If I wanted to provide a similar experience, targeting a different narrative, and then worked to create my own safe platform, would you disagree with that?

"Ignoring" is just choice. And that concept can either promote or extinguish fair and free communication.

I assume you and I share similar political beliefs. Call it censorship, or call it "choice", it ia clear today not all people have fair and free access.

If the government uses its power to extinguish speech (or to burden channels through unfair promotion of counter ideas), then that is censorship. And that is a problem we should all want to fix.


The "trained Marxist" phrase is so strange to me - how does one become 'trained' in Marxism? Trained in guerilla warfare, perhaps. But to be trained in Marxism has the same meaning as being "trained in Platonism" or "trained in Hayekism". The other answers she gave in the interview also indicate to me that she doesn't really know what she's talking about, and is using this language either as a LARP to claim some theoretical legitimacy or basis, or as a way to attract on-the-fence old school Marxists.

At no point did any of this 'trained Marxism' show other than in a small handful of the organization's goals, generally the most neglected ones.


To add to that, stating the fact that one of the tech titans of today, Bill Gates, was in cahoots with a convicted pedophile is either met with "this is just hearsay!" or "you're jumping to conclusions", when it's not ignored and down-voted altogether.

Even more important (not that many of us receiving our wages and dividends from probably pedophiles isn't important), the strong connection between Silicon Valley of days past, and, most importantly, from today, with the Military and Security Complex is also shunned.


> the strong connection between Silicon Valley of days past, and, most importantly, from today, with the Military and Security Complex is also shunned.

Whole valley at one time was off limits to anyone from the Soviet Block.


And of course that The Economist just published this article in their latest issue: "After a long break-up, Silicon Valley and the military-industrial complex are getting back together" [1] . Maybe I should submit it as a dedicated post.

[1] https://www.economist.com/business/2022/08/08/can-tech-resha...


It depends on what the bubble is about. If it's for a specific anime who cares but politics is a bubble whose influence exits the bubble


Honestly I have no interest in discussing politics. It’s the social media of conversation.

I prefer to talk to people about what interests them. Sometimes it is interesting. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I agree with them. Sometimes I don’t. With most people all four are true. I form my own opinions from there. They change frequently. I vote based on my best current mental model.


I try to shake that up from time to time. It is nice to see the other side of the discussion. Groupthink is not something to strive for.


I’m not striving for groupthink. I’m seeking out a trusted (collective) voice.


Some ideas are objectively sick regardless of the forum.


A bubble can be less about topics and more about how we communicate - if I ask about sources on HN I'll get links and pdfs in return. If I do that on reddit, I'll get insults.

HN has broad tolerance for a lot of ideas - and a lot of subgroups exist here that don't exist on other platforms. No matter what you believe, someone on HN holds a counter view and can probably give you a good debate about it.


There might be some "Three or so core values are enough" pattern being played out in relatively good success here. E.g. respond to a favorable or valliant interpretation of a post, bring in new data and information and references, leave the place better than you found it. Then maybe a few emergent rules of etiquette.


You want an audience for your disagreements and maybe to cause a rise in people (trolling). But that's not fun for the audience which is why a lot of communities become insular bubbles to keep the annoyers away.


Maybe, but you want to have your disagreements with the people that typically frequent HN about topics that are typically discussed on HN.


That may be true, but I doubt you’re actually too interested in people with completely different interests. Just like utilitarians and deontologists might be interested in finding and talking with each other but not someone who is wholly uninterested in ethics as a simple example.


Nice way to describe your taste in bubbles.


Is HN the digital equivalent of going to a bar looking for a fight?


No, it’s not. And you better be shut up about it if you know what’s good for you, pardner.


This honestly made my day. LOL


Relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/386/


> You don’t need social networks to keep in touch with anyone anymore, their original raison d'être is gone.

In what sense? The underlying social motivation/interest is still present. And it's not like fundamental communications capabilities have actually changed. Chat's been around since the 90s and SMS is the new email. And social network applications grew and thrived in those situations because pull-and-scan-social-feed across multiple circles has some distinct effort-reward profiles.

I could see the argument that the algorithmic and advertising imposition eventually drive out enough of the value that people opt out, but that's a statement about the business lifecycle of a social network app, not the underlying reason people might use / like them.


Chat has not been around since the 90s, not in the form that is used today.


Now that I think about it, this is correct on at least one front: I can recall chat systems that existed in the 80s.

What's the feature of today's chat systems makes them qualitatively different from those that are 30+ years old?


Today's chat systems are far more accessible to people with minimal to no technical background. Install an app on your phone and you're good to go. Almost anyone can and does use them.

The level of technical knowledge required to connect to IRC or a BBS in the 80s was far higher, which meant that only a tiny fraction of people bothered.


Chat definitely existed in the 80's.

One of my first childhood memories was my brother showing me a real-time chat with someone in Germany. It was 1982. The letters appeared one... by... one... on the screen. It was probably a subconscious part of why I went on to study German later.


Also everyone has smartphones that they bring around literally everywhere they go all the time, no dynamic of signing out.


Part of that is increased accessibility, but I think the larger part is increased technical background. If I kidnapped a computer scientist from the 1960s and locked them in a room with a smartphone (turned off), it might be a while before they posted their first meme. Now almost everyone accepts that they need to learn how to use a smartphone, while the in 80s/90s it was very possible to live life without touching a computer or mobile phone.

In any event, the fact that chat programs are different or more common now doesn't mean they didn't exist in the 80s and 90s. IRC is and was chat as much as Slack or Discord are.


on my university mainframe in the 1980s it was as simple as logging in and typing 'forum'.

had most of the basic features of IRC.


The point is that today you are always online on your phone. Whatsapp, Viber or Messenger always work. No need to log onto a mainframe and type forum.

I feel that the point made is a good one. Given that we can share what we want directly via instant messengers that everyone has "turned on" all the time, value proposition of Facebook drops dramatically. Anything you want to share you can share directly and immediately get it to whoever you want to see it.


The ability to fit them comfortably into a pocket.


emojis?


It didn't have emojis or videos back then, but otherwise it hasn't changed much.


No, we had ascii art and point to point file sharing (DCC).


Agreed, the closest thing to filling that general keeping in touch for me is WhatsApp groups (other group chat apps are available). In my social group that's where pics get shared, things get organised and general life updates go. Groups form quite naturally along lines that mirror real life and groups fall apart and people move on as they do in real life.

Facebook had a short lived glory when we were all open with ourselves. But inevitably it wasn't long before the issues came. Someone posts a pic on a night out with some friends and another mutual friend gets upset they weren't invited. That creepy friend of a friend starts liking all your bikini pics. The nice friend of a friend starts posting attention seeking stuff that makes you like them a bit less. Family politics get aired in public.

People shared less of their lives and except for a few egotists there isn't much of that old genuine content we all loved. It's all content aggregation filler now.

Chat groups allow for keeping in touch but allows us to those groups like the 'No Homers Club'


That was exactly my assertion from couple of weeks ago [1]

In India WA does an excellent job of being that social graph. There are segregated groups of family, colleagues, collage friends and what not. Messages, memes, updates are shared on those groups. Lot of commercial transactions also take place. So Facebook usage has dropped significantly. Of course WA is owned by FB.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32274785


Social networks aren't that important to stay connected. In countries where there's still load shedding or shitty internet, people connect via whatsapp and gmail and you'll see advertising signs and paint on buildings and even cargo ships that just contain a whatsapp number and a gmail address.

That's their form of the internet, because everything else won't even load with speeds less than 100kBit/s.

Also: Whatsapp somehow works on dumbphones. I don't know how (yet) but there's apps for KaiOS, Samsung Bada and other old phones. I wonder if vendors reverse engineered the APIs and implemented their own clients.


> Also: Whatsapp somehow works on dumbphones. I don't know how (yet) but there's apps for KaiOS, Samsung Bada and other old phones. I wonder if vendors reverse engineered the APIs and implemented their own clients.

How "dumb" are those dumbphones? I ask because since around 2002 (prior to smartphones), some phones allowed apps to be downloaded. From around 2005, most phones supported downloadable apps, written by third parties.

They were called "midlets", written in Java, and I wrote a few of them myself.


I’d go further - it’s not just that we don’t need a way to ‘connect’ with people on a platform today (you can ping them in myriad ways).

It’s that we don’t much want to anymore.

The novelty of general-purpose social networking was twofold, in order depending on your circumstances at the time:

- a new angle to seeking a mate

- wow, a way to see what someone you don’t really know anymore is up to and say hi

The former market opportunity is now filled by specialist apps.

The latter, while it was fun for a while, and might still hold some prospect for thrills, is nothing to build a business around.


> What’s sought after now is meeting -other-, new, like-minded people and content. For that we have twitter, Reddit, TikTok, and whatnot.

yeah, but meeting people there isn't really meeting people. the friends you have on those aren't real friends. you can stay in touch with a friend on social media, but if your friendship is only there it's only pretend.


Reddit is often great for reading nifty content, but the infantile, monoculture avatars turn me off from ever wanting to 'connect' with anyone.


I like my bubbles on reddit because I have a lot of niche interests. Geography, airplanes, retro computers, 1980's toys and cartoons. Reddit is great because there are multiple subreddits for these things. It's great that after 30+ years of never meeting someone who liked maps as much as I do I can share and discuss strange maps and talk about toys from my childhood.


>What’s sought after now is meeting -other-, new, like-minded people and content. For that we have twitter, Reddit, TikTok, and whatnot.

None of those sites are good for that any more. All the interesting people on reddit have been banned. No one sane uses twitter. And finding people to talk to on tiktok is plain impossible.


IMHO Social Media is a toxic mutation of the capabilities offered by the Internet and is the opposite of federated, open communication. I don't consider blogs, forums, or IRC to be "Social Media". When you add the idea of followers and audience and attention seeking (both from participants and the platform) that's when you get "Social Media".

We live in the Infinite September. Scale is not conducive to valuable or fulfilling communication. Decentralization, variety, and focus are. When I want to read about motorcycles I have a forum for that. When I want to plan a vacation with the family we use email. When I have a question about a software project I get on their IRC channel. At no point is my racist uncle (or yours!) involved. This is the potential of the Internet and it is not social media.

When I want to be depressed by all the things that other people have better than me I go to Social Media. I can't think of a single fulfilling experience I ever had on Facebook or any other social media platform. It's just not possible when you put everyone in a room. It's like studying philosophy on a bus.

Social Media is by (my) definition the valueless corruption of the Internet. In that sense I am glad it is dead, I hope it stays that way. Facebook and Tik Tok are the inevitable end-state of "Social Media". There's no "good" social media and there never was. Anyone who builds a platform for "everyone" is doomed to die the death of social media.


> There's no "good" social media and there never was.

As much as I hate Facebook/Meta and everything it stands for, I got a lot of value out of Facebook and Instagram during my teenage years. I lived pretty much in the middle of nowhere, not very walkable/bikeable but also without any other kids my age to hang out nearby. My school was really small (I graduated with a class of less than 30 people) and there weren't many like-minded students.

During the 2000s, Facebook was an absolute lifeline for me. It's where I lived. It's where I met new friends. It's where I shared (cringey) posts about my passions, my interests, books and TV shows and movies and games. And my friends talked about that cringey stuff with me on Facebook, over chat and in comments.

But that was a world before Facebook killed the chronological feed, before they introduced ads in the feed (remember sidebar ads? Not enough $$$ to pay tens of thousands of engineers, I suppose), before they started "recommending" content. They were still manipulative, but they provided a valuable service.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that early-stage simple social media was useful to many people, and that's likely why late-stage social media remains popular today -- people want that core functionality. I made lifelong friends on there, just like you did on blogs, forums, and IRC. At the early stage, it wasn't about influencers and ads. Just slightly-more-than-local attention seeking.


> When I want to plan a vacation with the family we use email. When I have a question about a software project I get on their IRC channel.

I think matrix.org would be more fitting, especially for your holiday planning.

Modern and secure, but still federated, also you can talk to people across platforms using bridges!


I recently friend requested a bunch of people I went to high school with who all thought I was a weird loser and I am very excited that I am doing much better than all of them. It’s made me like my social media feed a lot more seeing the school bully who loved ICP post about how “he’s ready to find the right girl and settle down (at 35)

So I guess I use social media for the exact reason you don’t like social media. Nobody’s supposed to like that stuff, but I mean, why else would you care what everyone else is doing other than to compare status?


If you come from a wealthy background, you get the really depressing version: the school bully who loved ICP posts about how they got a new job with McKinsey, the slimy moron who used to spread shit about you is the CEO of a up-and-coming startup, and the guy who was too dumb to understand how truly dumb he was is now at a senior position in a thinktank.


That's the disingenuous presupposition.

A more positive one would be those people actually got better at their skills and improved as people. I'd like to think I'm a better person than I was in high school.

But if you're constantly exposed to their social feeds, you would have the data and probably know better. :)


I guess from plain statistics, you could say that the number of talented people from wealthy backgrounds is roughly the same as talented people generally, so my feeling is that there is a sizable slice of jobs where you just secure rents through connections and you don't actually need to be talented.

From my observations, some industries (film, for instance) will give people a chance, then get rid of them if they don't work out - so a lot of people I vaguely knew had very brief acting careers.

Other companies seem to trundle along with really dysfunctional leadership, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, I suspect it's because the explicit aim of the company (say, mining) is not what the company is actually doing (say, some kind of rent extraction) so it doesn't matter that the CEO has no skills to speak of.

Also, when you know the people, and you see like an interview they've given, you can usually tell if they're bullshitting.


I'm not sure continuous exposure to schadenfreude is any healthier than the more depressing topics, to be honest.


I mean I don’t actually revel in it, I was being a bit cheeky. I just wanted to reconnect with high school people during Covid so I friend requested a ton of people.

It’s sad seeing a guy who was in the “gifted and talented program” with me is apparently now a janitor who posts pictures every day about what concert or sports game he’s at and he’s always alone. I was excited for him because he took a picture with a woman and I thought he’d met someone but it turned out to be his sister.


Haha, I don’t take pictures of myself alone, so I guess for anyone you notice like this, there are thousands invisible lonely boys.


Sounds like not much has changed for you since high school.


I mean nowadays I get free lunches from recruiters and at conventions instead of being on the school free lunch program but I suppose not


I suspect that that what really ate up personal social networking was very simple: private group messaging finally got good enough.

15 years ago, we’d lost touch with old friends and acquaintances because there are a ton of people in our lives that mean something to us but that don’t warrant much 1-to-1 contact through phone calls or messaging.

Myspace and early Facebook reinvigorated those relationships with relaxed, casual networked update blasts, but then iMessage, What’s App, were able to make the same connections more private, more personally shaped, and more collaborative.

So social networks drifted towards public feeds and commercialized feeds, which is what TikTok — as a well-funded latecomer — had the luxury of aiming for directly.


I completely agree. In my view group chats on apps like WhatsApp much more accurately mirror how humans actually communicate in real life. That is to say it's more like a spontaneous conversation rather than social media which is more like a narcissistic advertising board for your life.


I don’t remember my extended family sharing jokes and memes non-stop in real life…


My dad frequently shares jokes in real life, some of them I've heard more than once during all these years. When I was younger, late teens, early 20s, I thought them cumbersome, "come on, dad! you've told me that joke countless times", now, when I'm in early 40s, I cherish those retellings of jokes.


> When I was younger, late teens, early 20s, I thought them cumbersome, "come on, dad! you've told me that joke countless times", now, when I'm in early 40s, I cherish those retellings of jokes.

Reminds me of:

Because we don't know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, five times more, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps 20. And yet it all seems limitless.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Paul_Bowles


Yep. I think it is useful to have a list of people you know incase you ever need to connect them, which is basically Facebook Messenger.

The blasting life updates at everyone know ever knew part of it though is just so unnatural. It was a novelty for a while but that stage is well over now. Facebook eventually got features to allow people to be more granular about updates but they have never really pushed them.

At one point I would use Skype with friends which was terrible. Discord now though is basically everything I could ever want for group messaging.


> I suspect that that what really ate up personal social networking was very simple: private group messaging finally got good enough.

Which was achieved by WeChat since 10 years ago. It's something to think about that why are we so behind technologically.


I think it's because of a critical mass of users. I can communicate with my parents and my entire circle of friends on WhatsApp, they weren't there 10 years ago.


I didn’t know I was supposed to be using iMessage like that. Maybe that’s where everyone went.


> If we're lucky, that means a federated, open, mostly-ad-and-suggestion-free open source social media ...

It's never going to happen.

Federation is a solution to a problem no one actually cares about. Obviously "no one" here is somewhat hyperbolic but so few people actaully care about this you may as well round it to zero.

We haven't had an at-scale federated network since POTS (and, by extension, SMS). That's a historical artifact. And look at all the problems POTS/SMS has with spam, caller impersonation, robocalls, etc. Now part of that is due to these being open addressable networks rather than the opt-in networking that has become dominant now.

But to say that's th eonly reason would be to miss the point that any federated systems will always have bad actors.

In the 2000s we had XMPP as an effort to make IM services interoperable. Remember how Google got flak for removing the ability to talk to non-Google services? That was mostly misplaced because the reason it was removed was that Microsoft allowed its IM users to talk to Google Chat but not the reverse.

Spam exists on POTS/SMS largely because smaller exchanges "launder" bad traffic with good traffic (and charge higher rates for it) to make it harder to filter or even identify who the bad actors are.

As for open? There's really no incentive for this except from the "losers" (in the market).


> Federation is a solution to a problem no one actually cares about. Obviously "no one" here is somewhat hyperbolic but so few people actaully care about this you may as well round it to zero.

I think this conflates two things: the number of people who are familiar with a problem as a discussion topic (yes, that’s very niche in this case), and the number of people who are affected by a problem and might be receptive to a solution to it if one was available and understandable to them.


I see it like Internet Explorer in the 00's.

Did my friends and family hate IE enough to switch away themselves? Nope.

Did I care enough to find out about Firefox? Yup. Did my friends and family hate IE enough to switch to Firefox when I suggested it? Yup.

Social media could be the same situation.


Didn’t have time to read other comments, but based on anecdotal experience I’d say the interpersonal connections have migrated into the private corners of chat via WhatsApp, Meta apps’ chat, or snap (highly dependent on age and location).

I’d add on to the idea of social media is over by saying the age of social networking in public is going through a rethink (or is just over for a while).

And as much as one wants to take it as a turn towards the networks becoming an ad machine and blame it on networks themselves, I’d also say it’s a human thing. The moment a platform gains escape velocity and starts growing, we immediately see the influencers, hustlers, and businesses approach it with a “grow your brand and audience” mentality. This eventually skews the network towards serving them because they actually bring money and shortly after, tadaaaa. It’s an ad machine laid on top of a content network rather than a social network.

Chats don’t suffer from this so in my experience, that’s where “social” networks are going for now. I’ll hold my breath on federated networks being the next step.


Social media for most is your phone's contact list + a group chat. It's just not broadcast for everyone to see and as of now, an ad free experience.


I was just thinking this.

Personally I've migrated from sharing things with friends and family on Facebook/Instagram, to a few group chats where friends and family share photos, life moments, etc.

Somewhere along the line Facebook and Instagram made me feel like my personal photos and updates were competing against ads and other more engaging content in people's feeds, and I felt like I wasn't communicating with the people that I was on those platforms to communicate with in the first place.

Judging by the increase in messages I get through more private channels with casual update content, I don't feel alone.

I would be curious if others have had similar experiences.


I think the market simply came to the conclusion that "real social media" (friend-centric) was not a thing that many people needed or wanted. People moved friend-to-friend communication to private messaging apps: FB Messenger, Whatsapp, Signal, Discord, etc. and that space is very alive and well.

There is no great unfulfilled demand for a version of that which is also semi-public because then you get your public and private spheres mixed up. Younger users appear to have looked at the mistakes of older users and figured out that this is not the right move - they know that Tiktok/IG/etc. is fake and not friend based, the fakeness is sort of the point, they're there to watch the 2022 version of TV, and participate in a popularity contest and stroke the ego/receive affirmation from a Like count.


This internet kid of 90s fever dream of an internet thats free and federated is just not gona happen. All evidence we have so far suggests that the scale at which internet is at, the larges opportunities will be in solving for the "non-technical" user. In my view this non technical user now understands that if something is free then that means ads. Thus the next age of social media should be about exploring what business models can work that align themselves with user's own interests.


This is largely true, except...

what about Wikipedia? Maybe it's the exception that proves the rule. But as far as I can tell, no online knowledge store has come close to the comprehensiveness and cultural cache of Wikipedia. And it's not showing ads constantly, it relies on donations entirely.

I remain hopeful that a federated social media service that offloads the hosting costs to passionate individuals (with modest ad support to keep the lights on) could survive just fine without venture capital or advertising creep. Think: WoW servers, AKA "blessed" federation.

Venture capital-driven business models will never align with my interest of keeping in touch with friends and family. The desire for profit and revenue growth (what us filthy plebeians call "greed") is simply too strong.


Here are some trends that could drive a fundamental shift in social media:

1) Trust is the scarcest element in social media today. Any social media company that is built on advertising will never have the trust of a subscription-based social media company. Companies that address scarcity tend to be successful.

2) What's no longer scarce: the underpinning technologies of social media: capturing and displaying photos and videos on multiple types of devices, recommending new social connections and posts. What was cutting-edge in 2004 is now well-known.

3) Meanwhile, users are getting increasing used to paying for subscriptions: app stores, streaming services, SaaS applications, cloud services, etc.

4) Connecting socially with others is a basic human need. This only increases as some kinds of jobs can be done from anywhere, and friends relocate far away.

5) As Facebook/Meta and others pursue the novelty-driven user experience of TikTok -- "show me what's interesting from people I don't know" -- it creates room for companies that want to get back to meeting the need for keeping in touch with friends and family, even when remote.

6) Large tech fortunes have created a donor class focused on legacy, not profit. Example: MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Jeff Bezos. Or Craig Newmark, of Craigslist.

--

Put all these together, and it seems like new social media companies could be created along the following lines:

1) Mission-focused. Focus on social connection first, not whatever drives the most revenue. In other words, don't get pulled into the latest fads, as Facebook is doing with TikTok.

2) Subscription business model. This eliminates the conflicts of interest that drives Facebook's trust-eroding privacy practices. Again -- trust is the scarcest element.

3) Subscriber-owned business. Each subscriber owns a portion of the company, and thus the company has a fiduciary, legal obligation to protect their interests. This is similar to what Vanguard does -- investors each own a portion of the company -- which forces Vanguard to act in their interests. It's the opposite of Facebook/Meta's ownership structure, where Mark Zuckerberg controls 90% of class B shares, giving him control over the company. [1]

4) To fix the cold-start problem [2] inherent in building a business with network effects, make the service free until it gets to a critical mass of subscribers. We can debate if critical mass is 10 million users, 100M, 1B, or some other measure. But be transparent about the threshold, and the subscription price once its hit. Speaking of price...

5) Keep entry level prices low to be point of being negligible for the vast majority of users. Maybe one dollar a month. Whatever it is, keep it lower than most other subscription services in order to encourage adoption, but not to shift back to the problematic ad-driven model.

6) A very low subscription price, at scale, can fund innovation. 100M users at $1/month is $1.2 billion per year. That's enough to pay cloud infrastructure and the engineers to build and run apps. Back-of-the-envelope path: suppose for argument's sake that half of that, $600M, goes towards cloud service providers. That's approaching the $1B/year that Netflix spends. The other $600M could fund 2000 engineers at $300k/year/engineer. That's enough to build a great deal of capabilities and bring them to emerging platforms (like AR glasses, cars, IoT/smart home...).

7) A business like this probably might not attract traditional venture capital funding. Even if every one of Facebook's 3 billion users all switched to this business and paid 1 USD/month, that would be $36B per year. That's well short of Facebook's $120B/year [5]. Who might fund it? A set of mission-driven investors, who wants their legacy to include a trusted, self-sustaining organization that socially connects the world. Craig Newmark could be one such investor (at least advisor), having built one such Internet institution (Craigslist) that facilitates community and commerce in an economically-sustaining manner. But there could be many other investors as well. Again, the technologic acumen and capital required aren't what's scarce; trust is.

[1] https://www.morningstar.com/articles/1061237/how-facebook-si...

[2] https://www.amazon.com/Cold-Start-Problem-Andrew-Chen/dp/006...

[3] https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/netflix-pays-1-billionyear-am...

[4] https://datareportal.com/essential-facebook-stats

[5] https://www.statista.com/statistics/268604/annual-revenue-of...


Seems like Tiktok has far fewer ads than other social media platforms. Less than 10% of things are ads. Instagram is like 30+% ads for me.


Yeah I was also surprised at that comment, TikTok has significantly less ads than FB/IG, so I don’t understand why it’s being criticized for that.


I suspect there's a lot more subversive ad content on TikTok -- influencers who are paid or gifted by advertisers to namedrop or show a product in a post that TikTok recommends to millions. The "ad" label feels inherently dirty, and people tend to tune out. But if an influencer sips a coke in a video, without even an explicit mention of the brand, I'm sure a lot of people start craving coke.


I'm sure subversive ads happen, but in my experience people are pretty straightforward about marking posts as paid.

Then, there's also a lot of small and medium sized manufacturers/artists where their whole channel is showing off their stuff. Kind of ad-like, but quality tends to be good and it doesn't feel sneaky like subtle product placement. Ex. there's a chinese factory that manufactures polycarbonate dome houses, they'll post montages of their domes, nicely decorated in beautiful locations. I think the product is cool, so I intentionally follow and consume their 'ad' content.


I've seen people claim that they show a variable amount of ads depending on the user, which I imagine would be based on your clickthrough rate or other metrics. The ratio between ads and content also seems to vary over time for me so I feel there's some form of optimization happening


I think Mastodon or the other Fediverse projects do provide all we need, but the problems with getting there are awareness, intransigence, and excitement which the advertising networks provide. Most people are unaware of this free alternative because it doesn't advertise itself. Effort to change and migrate is too much for many people. Entertainment creation does not provide much if any revenue on free platforms.

So we have this divide of advertising products and the rest of us who do not participate in advertising networks. The trend toward the latter is growing but slowly.


Jabber failed versus MSN Messenger and that was not because advertising.

Propietary products are usually more curated in features and stability than the free options, and those reach the market quickly. Big companies have money, free comunities do not.


> If we're lucky, that means a federated, open, mostly-ad-and-suggestion-free open source social media experience can fill the power vacuum for intimate, interpersonal, high-latency communication over the internet.

Worth mentioning is Jimmy Wales' effort in this vein: https://wt.social/


Imo this depends on your definition of open. Others being allowed to edit your content opens the door for abuse from opposite political parties.


Mastodon is anything but high-latency. If you missed a post in the stream of other posts it is gone forever, unless you were glued to the screen in hopes of not missing anything. I don't think it is better than Tiktok really, same basic principle of keeping people in the app.

Forums and blogs with comment sections are the only high-latency mediums, and I guess we will keep reinventing them every five years.


> If we're lucky, that means a federated, open, mostly-ad-and-suggestion-free open source social media experience can fill the power vacuum for intimate, interpersonal, high-latency communication over the internet. microblog seems promising, but I think even mastodon could provide the experience I'm looking for.

might be true for people like us. the other 7 billions out there won’t care


That's OK by me. I'd very much enjoy a small community of passionate people like us. My family and friends are fed up with Facebook enough that I could probably persuade them to switch. I don't need everyone on there -- just the people I care about and respect.

Of course I think the whole world would benefit if everyone switched away from Facebook, but no need to rush anything.


You're answering your own question with your own essay on this-here social network for essays. Yeah there's no pictures, yeah there's no private messages, yeah there's very little of meeting someone and becoming friends. (And in fact, on BookFace which is for YC founders, I divine there are all those things, as options, this is the public-facing everyone's-welcome version of that. They share software.) But I have made some friends, like alisonkisk to some extent, and who else, cercatrova, and recently Cyberdog. And a few others reaching each other over email, there's some people. It's not a totally deserted wasteland, like you'd think from the purity of text. A literally Islamic degree to which it's iconoclastic, just pure text, like not even ASCII art, this is fully compatible with the most extreme forms of literalist Christianity and Islam.


Where does classmates fit into the picture?

I don't think too people actively use them, but some people do. I'm actually unsure how Classmates actually works --is it a subscription model, what's it's business model and could it end up morphing into the TheFB of old but subscription based? Maybe the draw of advertising money is too strong to resist.


Not just social media. Look at news sites. Evolution from news aggregator to news plus well-placed ads to now where half the page is the Outbrain ads embedment. You could see a well-written story and then scroll down your struck with cognitive dissonance wondering how reputable organizations still put the Outbrain junk at the bottom.


I'm curious how you can to this conclusion. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were always vehicles for advertisers. I suppose it was more acceptable because it was from "influencer marketing," which was taken so far that the FTC had to step in and start fining influencers for dishonest marketing.

I guess it is different than "we are interrupting your current show for this important topic," but to be honest, I think the new style of marketing is more sinister. We can expect a TV or radio station to show ads and understand it doesn't exactly reflect the thoughts of the stations. In "influencer marketing," we are led to believe that some 16 year old really knows more about the stock market and crypto than those Wall Street guys.


TV created influencer marketing. Since before social networks existed products would make appearances in shows. See Sheldon drink a coke in big bang theory, that was paid for. See someone shopping at a particular store in a mall, paid for.


That’s odd, I don’t remember there being any advertising at all on those platforms in the early days.


At least Tiktok doesn't force me to watch their stupid ads like YouTube does. I am too lazy to install adbockers on my mobile and tablet. But the force-watching of Youtube ads is one of the worst ideas in advertising.


At least they provide a premium ad free service.


And they told me about it every damn time I log on to YouTube


From my experience TikTok has nothing compared to Snapchat. Snapchat videos have so many adds I was getting too frustrated and finally vowed never to return. I don’t get that feeling with TikTok


The problem of "who pays for this?" still remains.

If it's free to the user, it has to be ad-supported (or I guess donation-driven; the Wikipedia/Guardian model, but I don't see that working so well for social media). If it's ad-supported that means the advertiser becomes the customer and the point of the thing gets subverted to maximise ad revenue.

If it's not free to the user, then we have to educate everyone that they need to pay for their social media. Not an easy task.


That's easy, honestly. Give people an option:

- host your own instance, no limits on usage because you're paying your own way, hosting your own images and content, running your own server

- use someone else's instance, they can show you whatever ads they like (though preferably in a sidebar, not integrated into your main feed) and subject you to space limitations. In a truly federated environment where users can easily switch between instances, those instances can compete based on ad and space efficiency. Some folks, like myself, might shell out for their own instance and host friends and family with no ads and ample space just to be nice.

Facebook as of 2009 was damn near "feature complete" social media. Messaging, photos, videos, comments, chronological feed. It's not that complicated. You could run the whole thing as an open source + donation based project, like Wikipedia or Mozilla. You don't need tens of thousands of engineers and venture capital that forces you to employ dark patterns and inject more and more ads and growth. Hell, I think that governments could even donate to a project like this since it's essentially a public service and (compared to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/TikTok) an investment in public mental health.


yeah, those are the options. And I agree, FB in 2009 was great.

But that's my point: companies have to keep moving, and optimising, and growing (because shareholders). If the revenue is supplied by advertisers, then they're the customers, and any optimisation is aimed to increase lock-in/revenues/etc based on their experience. The actual users get a worse experience as time goes on because their needs are secondary to the advertisers. Eventually the whole thing ends up where we are with FB: the user experience is shitty and people start leaving.

If this is really going to work properly, then we have to persuade people to pay for their social media service.


Discord is picking up steam, and doesn't seem to be relying on advertising. They're also way more explicit about making communities rather than friend networks.


The scary part is how much real interpersonal communication data they have on users and what could be done with it in the wrong hands. What is their real business model? It can't just be selling Nitro.


Discord watches what apps you launch, primarily games, and sells this data to others to determine what games to make, or what games people are playing. It’s the same purpose of all the game launchers out there that run even when you’re not playing a game from that company.


This is an interesting perspective and evolution I’d not considered before. And it makes me wonder if the trend of LinkedIn showing ever more personal and less professional content is because it’s the place people have turned to fill the void. It being the main remaining place where people have connections they are least have a somewhat passing personal acquaintance with rather than just a collection of performing strangers.


This reminds me of a video I watched the other day about how nobody asks you to "share" anymore. In the early days of social networks every site and app had front page ad copy asking you to "share". Nowadays most don't even tell you what they are because it's assumed that you already know. And even those that try to explain themselves no longer talk about "sharing".


This article filled me with hope, but I already see a danger:

A threadmill of products to "bring the world together" under different names and mottos but all sooner or later devolving into advertisement machines. Maybe next: WhatsApp, then Signal then Mastodon? For this to happen, founders just need to sell out, for example to Meta. WhatsApp already sold out but did not yet pivot.


Signal very obviously has a finite lifespan, but in the moment it's best in class for privacy.


Very obviously? Am I missing something?

That being said, I'm strongly considering switching to a Matrix client these days, since I like the idea of encrypted chat that works across whatever client I prefer. If you're knowledgeable in the encrypted chat space I'd love to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons.


Signal is anti-federation, so it's limited to the quality that moxie can enforce so long as he can enforce it.

Realistically, if he steps down for any reason and someone decides they need to layer in ads to support it...that'll be the end.

I would desperately like Signal to have a commercial service offering you can pay for which would of offer the possibility of sustainment.


> I would desperately like Signal to have a commercial service offering you can pay for which would of offer the possibility of sustainment.

That will kill it even quicker. What does this look like? All users have to pay to have an account? Now you’ll have less users and miss out on network effects. If only some users have to pay, what do they get besides feel goods? Ad removal? They’re stuck, Signal must continue being free. So agreed, Signal has a finite lifespan


Matrix has a very complicated server setup. I tried and failed. It's only for people who know Matrix deeply or have a lot of time to troubleshoot.


Very obviously - not to me. Why?


We don’t really need social media because we’ve discovered we actually hate a lot of people once we see their opinions on full display. Just stick to good content please. Most people though aren’t great content creators anyway.


A lot of people do post uninteresting, cringey, or downright embarrassing content when given the opportunity. I've done so myself plenty of times.

But I think social media brings out the worst in people right now. By constantly "recommending" content that radicalizes people into tiny niche opinions and conspiracy theories and incentivizing "sharing" links and video spam, we're amplifying the worst opinions that people have.

But I'm sure those same people have interesting thoughts too -- something as simple as a cute picture of their dog, or a nice sunset, or information about a hobby they enjoy like woodworking or bike riding. Maybe I'm just an optimist who wants to believe the best in people.

When I look at Facebook these days, I don't assume that my relatives are actually JUST hateful, conservative, xenophobic conspiracy theorists. I assume that's what Facebook brings out of them -- it's what it suggests to them, it's what it suggests to their friends, it's what they see in their feed so it's ultimately what they share and what they end up thinking about more often as a result. But it isn't who they are. I know these people: they love kayaking, and gin & tonics by the ocean, and their pets, and their kids, and fireworks, and campfires, and boating, and books, and gardening, and a million other things. But you'll never see posts about those other things on Facebook because they aren't "engaging."


> we basically don't have social media right now, we have advertising engines masquerading as social media

And that's been true of mainstream media for a long time also.


Have you ever read Neil Postman's Amusing ourselves to Death? It doesn't quite hone in on the advertising engine piece of this, but I think it hits the nail right on the head about mainstream media's longtime masquerade as "news."



TikTok is an entertainment platform, not really social media.


Therefore, social media is not entertaining. Hence the downfall of social media.




Applications are open for YC Winter 2023

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: