Reddit and the centralized Web
As you may have noticed, a significant part of Reddit has been blocked1 since yesterday and will be blocked in the near future 2. This should have been an insignificant event. Sites going down is a daily thing, but what we see is a real threat to the entire Web.
Closed ecosystem problem
This much ado about nothing is a direct result of changing the pricing of API for 3rd party clients, most notably for Apollo3. This will force users (sometimes called “Redditors”) to use either the Web interface or the official mobile clients. We saw the same situation with Twitter just a few months ago4.
This is not something anyone should be surprised by. We’ve known for quite some time that free services are not free, as you pay with information about yourself, which is then used to show targeted ads. 3rd party apps make it much more challenging to create a complete picture of a visitor, as a lot of data points become inaccessible to the service provider.
We have no alternative clients for Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or TikTok. And we are ok with that, as we see them as closed services. Reddit was different because it was always open to the world. You could view it without authenticating if you ignore constant popups. It was also searchable from outside of Reddit.
However, I’ve seen quite a significant number of people proposing to move to Discord.
Discord is a closed ecosystem of private communities dressed as real-time chat. Proposing Discord as a response to the closing of Reddit’s ecosystem makes little sense, as Discord is what Reedit will become. But what if communities make this move?
Centralized web problem
The unexpected victim of the blackouts is search engines. Never before have I noticed how often the best result is a Reddit post. Yes, we joked that you should add “reddit” to any query to find something useful on the Web of 2023, but now this has become apparent.
Search for emacs problems, Reddit is the best source.
Search for FreeBSD problems, Reddit is the best source.
Search for knitting problems, Reddit is the best source.
Somehow, silently Reddit has eaten the Web. What will happen when Reddit shuts down? It will, eventually. It’s a company, and those are not everlasting. And with that, we will lose a significant part of the knowledge on the Internet.
What will happen when Wikipedia shuts down?
What will happen when Youtube shuts down?
When a blog or a forum shuts down, we lose its content, but not much is actually lost. For sure, someone has written the same or asked the same question. It may have been the best article about a given subject, but it’s not the only one. With the ubiquitous nature of Reddit or Wikipedia, people don’t duplicate the knowledge. Instead, just point to Reddit. Do we have an alternative to the bigger subreddits? How often a response is just a link to a Reddit thread?
And what if the answer lives in a closed Discord server? Discordization of the Web is what we see now. All this knowledge is not publicly available.
What we see now is just a taste of the Web corporations want. And this will lead to the next burning of the Library of Alexandria.
PhpBB5 is still the easiest way to create a smaller to create a small community. Do you need really millions of members6?