Posted on July 13, 2023 in Technology

What is Going On With Social Websites Lately?

A bunch of websites are metamorphosing into new and unrecognizable shapes. Outside of Twitter (it’s own major disaster), what’s going on in these social media sites?

Reddit Kills Apollo

Reddit’s decision to start charging for direct access to their API has resulted in Apollo, alongside a number of other third-party apps meant to work with Reddit, shutting down. It’s simply too expensive to keep running. Many subreddits (which are like forum pages for niches under the Reddit umbrella) shuttered their doors, some for 48 hours, some indefinitely, only for Reddit staff to threaten to de-mod the moderators who made that decision and replace them with more agreeable users who would open the subs back up. Why would anyone scab for arguably one of the worst online jobs available on a volunteer basis? The power to control the ‘vibe’ of the subreddit, and therefore the mood of whatever hobby or niche that subreddit represents if Reddit is a big enough part of it. Some hobbies and communities only exist on Reddit – outside of the easy pre-made forum format that Reddit provides, these people would not be able to come together and share information with each other. That’s a lot of power!

As an aside, Apollo (and many of the other third-party apps designed to read Reddit on mobile) work with accessibility tools, while the primary app… struggles. Shutting down Apollo means a sizable chunk of the population just won’t be able to use Reddit on mobile, full stop. Reddit doesn’t seem to have plans in place to address that!

From most angles, Reddit’s decision is a transparent grab for more ads. Third party sites don’t do the ads like the official app does, so Reddit will get more money if everyone is forced to either use the mobile site or the official Reddit app. Many moderators have chosen to reopen their subreddits, but flag them as NSFW pages, which Reddit can’t monetize with ads.

Discord Changes Their Username Policy and Freaks Everyone Out

Discord used to work by giving everyone a name and a number discriminator that would allow people to pick out exactly the name they wanted without having to add a bunch of special characters or numbers into it. It was elegant! It was clean! It was easy to use and easy to learn! You could change your name on a whim, add or remove pertinent info, and goof off with holiday-themed usernames without risking losing the “real” username.

Now, everyone just gets a username. A username with numbers permanently built into it, since many people are not getting the username they wanted (or even the one they already had). And, thanks to a bad rollout, Discord is watching with their hands up in the air as people grab names like “Markiplier” and “PewDiePie”, which are both social media handles belonging to users already on the site with huge followings elsewhere! Both had their names with the discriminator attached until that change happened and locked them out of using the handle they already had, due to the staggered rollout Discord is doing.

Just names is worse. It was always worse. It is still worse now. An old system that could handle emojis and names written in non-English characters is simply gone for the sake of a more Twitter-like system, allegedly to ease confusion… but the rollout really screwed up any chance this change had to land well. People are grabbing up names they know were already in use, not to mention that Twitter’s system really struggled with scammers up until the verification checkmarks were introduced to kick impersonators.

Twitch Threatens Sponsorships and then Says it Didn’t Mean To

Twitch has had a rough couple of weeks or months. Initially, Twitch announced that it would be downgrading some users from 70/30 to 50/50 money split: where the streamer used to get 70% of the bits and subscription money their viewers spent on them and Twitch would get the remaining 30%, now they’d get half. Smaller streamers were very upset – many were on contracts that kept them from dual-streaming on sites like Youtube or Tiktok, which would allow them to supplement the income twitch had just announced it was cutting. Clarifications came out later, some users were exempt, but it was a bad look.

And then Twitch said it would be limiting the screen space sponsorships could have during a livestream to 3% of the screen, and that it would be banning burnt-in sponsorship panels altogether. Tickers, icons, and all sorts of other shout-outs to brands were going to be taken out of action. AFK screens, the screen a streamer sometimes puts up when they take a break to use the bathroom or get food, were now nerfed. Sponsors would have very little incentive to pay money to people if those people couldn’t show their logo in high definition, and as such this would have killed a lot of sponsorship opportunities.

The website flipped! Immediately, almost everyone was angry in a way they’d never been before!

Many of the largest streamers make their money off of sponsorships. Where big streamers didn’t care so much about the 70/30 or 50/50 split change, they cared a lot about the sponsorship change. Sensing the enormity of the mistake they made, Twitch went back on it almost immediately, but trust in the site as a money-making opportunity for content creators is damaged if not dead. ‘What’s next? What will Twitch do next?’ Rings through chatrooms and Discord servers. Streamers, big and small, are now wary – this kind of behavior points to Twitch needing money badly and not looking hard enough at the consequences before they announce their ‘plans’, letting the audience puzzle out what could go wrong for them.