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Where do we go from here
Ended friendship with old internet, new internet not here yet
Hello friends, it’s been a long while since we’ve had a Normcore Tech.
Quite honestly, I’ve been feeling a little lost social media-wise since Twitter 1.0 ended. Between Twitter, the decline of the tech sector social media giants in late 2022 and into this year, and ChatGPT bursting onto the scene in late December, it feels like we are in a Very Large Vibe Shift.
Long before Elon Musk came in like a wrecking ball to Twitter, executives there pored over an alarming and important chart. Heavy tweeters, who were responsible for 90% of Twitter’s generated content but made up only 10% monthly active users, were in retreat, particularly in key topic advertising areas such as celebrities. The theory was that these content creators were migrating to TikTok. What filled the void was a spike in NSFW and crypto content (and if you remember, crypto ruins everything.)
Around the same time, other social platforms the same age as Twitter were struggling:
Facebook lost daily users for the first time in its 18-year history — falling by about half a million users in the last three months of 2021, to 1.93 billion logging in each day. The loss was greatest in Africa, Latin America and India, suggesting that the company’s product is saturated globally — and that its long quest to add as many users as possible has peaked.
Giphy, along with Imgur, an extremely hot startup serving gifs, fell
Its valuation is down by $200m from its peak in 2016 and, more importantly, its core offering shows signs of going out of fashion. “There are indications of an overall decline in gif use,” the company said in its filing, “due to a general waning of user and content partner interest in gifs.
“They have fallen out of fashion as a content form, with younger users in particular describing gifs as ‘for boomers’ and ‘cringe’.”
Although the quiet redistribution of users to TikTok, BeReal, and smaller platforms like Discord has been going on for several years at this point, once Elon took over Twitter, this trend was laid bare. People are disengaging with the current state.
I’m not very clear on where we’re headed yet, but that’s not stopping me from writing a newsletter in extremely vague terms so I can say I was right later on.
Money is to be had, as Jim Barksdale said, in bundling and unbundling. The last fifteen years were about bundling the way we mass-communicate, consume, and navigate that mass communication. The next ten will be about breaking all of it up, and then rebundling it all over again in some new format.
For consuming social media, early adopters in the short-term will leave and opt-out, switching to private media like Discord, Slack, and group chats, and trying out Mastodon, creating a private, fragmented, unsearchable social media landscape (and believe me, the Mastodon people REALLY don’t want you to search it.) I’ve already seen this happen in my own circles. As of today, I am personally on: still Twitter, Mastodon, Slack, Discord, Whatsapp, Viber, Telegram, SMS, Signal, and, recently, the Substack chat feature. All of these are trying to build some variation of the same user experience.
A lot of them will end up dissatisfied. Many mainstream users will continue to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter as they degrade in quality to the point where they are basically unusable wastelands of advertising injected with the occasional piece of content, and then also give up and leave. Where to, is unclear at this stage, but it won’t be any one thing. We are unbundling social media consumption.
Social media producers and Creators, on the other hand, are migrating to, and continue to places which are more stable and tightly-controlled, like TikTok, as long as it’s not banned (like it already is in India, and possibly headed in the same direction in the States), or go on and explore new areas, like Mastodon and Discord, or start composing tweets in a Google doc just in case (me).
At the same time, with regards to social media creation, tools like ChatGPT and StableDiffusion make it easier to mass-create art, and easier for places like TikTok to copy it. It will truly be harder (but not impossible as long as humans have humanity and imagination) for creators to be individuals in this new economy and to particularly stand out.
So what comes next for Normcore Tech? Should I use the newsletter as my new Twitter feed, sporadically emailing you things I’m working on? Should I go into deep hiding and unplug everything? Should I start trying to shitpost on LinkedIn (it’s too hard, believe me, I’ve tried.)? I’m not sure.
But if you have any ideas, feel free to email me.
In the meantime, here’s a list of recent things I’ve written:
I have been deep in the ML literature and am reading up on all these new ML paradigms that are coming out. I looked at the Stable Diffusion safety filter and just yesterday wrote about how we should understand ChatGPT
The thing I am mostly working on this year is Viberary, my semantic search/recommendation side project. So far I’ve looked into the data, did some basic profiling, and am deep in …. deep learning at the moment.
I also wrote about everything I did in 2022
On the personal side, I did a really cool thing - I beta-read Wohpe
See you on openTwang.