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It’s strike summer, baby!
Read to the end for a song that goes so hard
Platforms Don’t Really Make Sense Anymore
On Monday, almost half of Reddit’s subreddits went private in protest of the company’s new API rules. In fact, so many went dark that the site actually crashed for a while. Up until now, using Reddit’s API was free and third-party developers made good use of it, most notably building the user-favorite app Apollo. It also meant that moderators could build custom bots for managing their subreddits. Under Reddit’s new rules, starting on July 1st, it’ll cost around $0.25 per 1,000 API calls. Apollo’s team estimated that it would cost around $20 million a year to keep the app running.
Large subreddits announced they would be protesting by going private and in the lead up to the protest, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, better known on the site as u/spez, held an AMA where he, as always, made things much worse, at one point personally attacking Apollo’s Christian Selig. For those who don’t follow Reddit drama, Huffman has literally never made a Reddit crisis better.
If you’re looking for more about how Reddit is handling the protest internally, you should head over to Platformer and The Verge, which have some good reporting on it. But the TL;DR is that Reddit is not changing course. And, at least for now, many popular subreddits aren’t planning to back down either, and are starting "Touch-Grass-Tuesdays,” where they’ll go dark in protest every week.
I guess it’s strike summer, baby! In fact, Reddit even figured out a way to bring in scabs, forcing some subreddits to go public again and removed the rebellious moderators. It’s unclear if redditors will actually succeed here, but the thing I was most struck by was how quickly the Reddit blackout affected a completely different platform: Google.
This week, on the suggestion of my Discord, I started binging the British TV show Utopia — it’s good, very dark, and sort of falls off in the second season. Anyways, at two points this week, I wanted to look up something about the show, googled, and got a bunch of Reddit threads that seemingly could have answered my questions, only to find out they were private. It might sound like a low stakes thing, but it’s not. It’s the exact kind of expected-to-be-frictionless online behavior that underpins the largely unspoken social contract of the internet. Alex Pareene, in Defector this week, articulated this idea up nicely, writing, “We are living through the end of the useful internet.”
As large platforms emerged — whether they were for search, social, or e-commerce — the deal was that they would make our digital lives easier and, in exchange, we would give them our data, attention, and, increasingly, actual money. And in the beginning, these companies made this part of their pitch. As recently as 2014, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told TIME, “Our mission is to connect every person in the world. You don’t do that by having a service people pay for.”
Of course, then Meta was one of the first platforms to put up walls and make most of their content inaccessible without an account and now they’re literally asking people to pay for verification. And, one by one, slowly, most other major platforms have found ways to do the same. Twitter, one of the last bastions of open and indexable content, has ruined their internal search and made their own API so expensive no one can use it.
There are a myriad of reasons these interconnected systems are breaking down, but I think it’s safe to say the emergence of AI tools like OpenAI’s GPT-4 has escalated things. In fact, Musk also seems to have just discovered this week that ChatGPT can now browse live internet results, including Twitter. So expect some weird retaliation against that in the near future. The companies that colonized the web don’t want to be colonized. But they don’t seem to realize that by making their platforms less accessible, less open, and by going to war with their own users, they are actively making themselves irrelevant.
Perhaps you can tell that I’m trying to avoid using the term “enshittification” here. That’s largely because I’m trying to describe something distinct, though, it is connected. Over time, as more platforms appeared and consolidated actual internet real estate, we came to rely on them working together in some capacity. And though they never want to acknowledge it, these platforms have also been relying on us to keep giving them content. Now users are revolting, ad revenue is beginning to lag, younger users are moving away from social networking and gravitating towards Netflix-style entertainment hubs like TikTok, and dark social and AI are replacing the feed interface with a chat window. So platforms are panicking. Because they were always middlemen, they were always marketplaces, and without a market, they aren’t really anything.
Will the redditor revolt work? I personally don’t think so. If nothing else, Reddit houses a lot of very specific porn and pretty good product reviews which I think is too valuable for people to boycott completely. But I also don’t think a platform that acts like Twitter or Reddit (or Twitch) is healthy to begin with. I think they are trying to spin last gasps of breath as business innovations. And the whole thing will come tumbling down and it won’t just impact your ability to find interesting trivia about a TV show you’re watching. Our entire way of using the internet is at risk.
One More Summer Show In NYC Coming Up
I’ve got one more Caveat show on the books. It’s next week on June 21st and you can get tickets here. Doors at 6:30, starts at 7:00. We have some kick ass guests, including comedian Ena Da and journalists Shannon Liao and Allegra Frank. See you there!
And as always, think about supporting Garbage Day! There are a couple different subscription tiers and they all give you more fun extra stuff. Hit the green button below to find out more.
Every So Often The Media Accidentally Invents VICE Magazine again
lol so on Monday I linked to this New York Times profile of Gutes Guterman, the co-founder of The Drunken Canal, and said it was assigned reading for today’s issue. If you didn’t read it, allow me to do my best to quickly summarize it and also why people are enraged about it.
Alright, let’s do this one last time. During the pandemic lockdown in 2020, Guterman and a group of NYU students created a print-only publication called The Drunken Canal and distributed it mostly in Manhattan’s Chinatown, near a buzzy restaurant called Dimes. The Drunken Canal became something of a minor, hyperlocal success because every five years the various heads of New York media spin a big wheel and pick a random thing teenagers are doing and declare it the future of publishing. Anyways, fascist podcasters, crypto millionaires, and far-right Substack writers seized on The Drunken Canal’s minor cultural cache and, flush with right-wing dark money, tried to make “Dimes Square” into the next Williamsburg. And Guterman has now launched a “real” publication called Byline which the Times declared this week would “save indie media” as if “indie media” was a real thing that even needed saving.
To be clear, I think this whole thing is very dumb and, beyond fake Dimes Square hype, my bigger issue is with who “the media” accepts as “the media” and who they don’t. The YouTuber Marques Brownlee has a big staff and office in New Jersey. Defector has decent-sized staff, as well. This city is full of homegrown podcast and video companies. Why aren’t any of them “saving” “indie media”? Also, most of those organizations pay their employees. And Byline, right now, does not. And I think those hangups have only gotten sillier and more unabashedly classist. Particularly because the digital media outlets that began in the 2010s, promising to subvert all of this, instead, evolved into a continuation of the status quo and then all imploded disastrously in the last nine months.
But here’s the thing: If Byline succeeds, even slightly, in building literally anything, it’s a good thing. We need more people writing words on the internet and we need places for young people to read those words and I am not too snobby to say that. But they should pay their fucking writers.
Shirt Bots Owned
Once again, I am desperately trying not to circle back to the idea of enshittification, but it’s hard to separate how inundated Twitter is with T-shirt bots — which are now verified — with what’s happening at Reddit and elsewhere right now.
We tolerated large platforms, that were never all that good to begin with, because they were convenient and useful and part of a larger interconnected network of tools and apps and systems that made the digital world safer and more dynamic. So you’d think, if they were actively deciding to stop being part of that larger system and no longer interested in making the internet, as a whole, function better, they would, at the very least, try and be more convenient! But instead we’ve ended up in a situation where all the local stores are gone, Main Street is deserted, and the large Walmarts on the edge of town are being set on fire and left to rot.
Someone should put that on a T-shirt!
MrBeast’s New Video Is Very Viral
MrBeast’s newest video, “$1 vs $1,000,000,000 Yacht!” was watched over 40 million times in the first 24 hours. That places it somewhere between the music video for “Me!”by Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie, which had around 60 million views in the first 24 hours, and the music video for Doja Cat’s “Vegas,” which had around 20 million views in the first 24 hours. As of this morning, MrBeast’s yacht video has around 80 million views.
I think there’s a lot of confusion as to why MrBeast videos do well, but you can see the formula pretty clearly in this video. It’s basically a magazine-style reality show you might see on a channel like the Travel Channel, Discovery, or HGTV, but edited for the broken attention spans of Minecraft-brained 12 year olds. There’s constant graphics and flashy editing and it clocks in at just under 15 minutes. But there’s another detail that I think is just as important as the pacing.
MrBeast has a crew of friends that are always just hanging around. It gives his videos the same kind of aspirationalism that, for a different generation, Jackass provided. And I think beyond all the bells and whistles, it’s just that simple.
We’re In Trouble, Folks
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This Indian Restaurant Is Going So Hard On Facebook
When I first saw screenshots of this page on Twitter I wasn’t sure if it was even real, but I am excited to say that, yes, it is very real. It’s called Rajshahi Indian Restaurant and it’s in New South Wales, Australia, and their Facebook page is out of control.
Know Your Meme actually contacted the restaurant. It’s a family-run joint and the daughter, who grew up working there, took it over and launched social media pages for it in 2019. The memes on the pages started getting weirder and weirder and now they’re basically gibberish. A true online success story.
There’s An AI-Generated Family Guy Channel
It’s a 24-hour stream similar to the Seinfeld Twitch channel. I joined the Discord to get some more information on how this is built. The dialogue is generated by OpenAI’s Davinci API, the voices are made with FakeYou.com’s API, and the visuals are run on Unity. It’s still pretty nonsensical, like the Seinfeld one, but it’s a lot more sophisticated. The characters sound sort of like the characters and definitely look like them. I mean, this clip is basically on the same level as most Family Guy writing, I’d say.
People Are Shipping Spider-Man 2099 with LEGO Spider-Man
So, a lot of the fan art about Miguel O’Hara, better known as Spider-Man 2099, and LEGO Spider-Man, who were both in the new Across The Spider-Verse movie, is platonic and SFW. Fans have created a whole storyline where O’Hara has decided LEGO Spider-Man is the best Spider-Man, which, fair enough.
But if you, uh, dig beneath the surface you’re going to find a lot of stuff that’s not platonic… at all. So tread with caution. You know how fandoms can get.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a song that goes so hard (courtesy of hypirlink in the Garbage Day Discord).
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***