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Could MetaFilter die?
August 19, 2011 7:27 PM   Subscribe

How futureproof is MetaFilter?

If you like: What are the odds that the site will be here in a recognizable form 20 years from now? (i.e. not offline, archival, or an Arianna Huffington property)
posted by Trurl to MetaFilter-Related at 7:27 PM (125 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

There's no real way to answer that kind of hypothetical. I hope it's around in 20 years, but I don't even know what the web will look like, heck MeFi could come into your vision via the backside of your eyelids before you go to bed in 2031.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 7:29 PM on August 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


How the heck could anyone quantify that?

"It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." -- Yogi Berra
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:30 PM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


MeFi could come into your vision via the backside of your eyelids before you go to bed in 2031

MeFeye
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:31 PM on August 19, 2011 [29 favorites]


Metafilter: coming in your eye since 2031.

I'll just show myself out then, shall I.
posted by elizardbits at 7:31 PM on August 19, 2011 [102 favorites]


There's no real way to answer that kind of hypothetical.

Well, as long as the site isn't losing money and there's plan of succession for the mods, that would be sufficiently confidence inspiring for me.
posted by Trurl at 7:32 PM on August 19, 2011


We don't know what will happen then. That's why they call it the future.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:33 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is really a question for mathowie at some level. It's defintiely something he's thought about and talked to us about in the loose "Hey what if I get hit by a bus?" hypothetical way. At some level it's just a database and a bunch of text and a paypal address and we-the-mods and, mostly, the folks who populate this place, it's pretty easy to keep it running in the event that mathowie wasn't here (through choice or not) but whether anyone would want to do that is a totally different question.

I'm not sure what you mean exactly about "plan of succession" since this place can run minus-one-mod without too much difficulty. But yeah, we've talked about this in the distant past here in MeTa; it's something Matt's talked with us about a little bit.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:36 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


A twenty-year outlook for a website is a long, long range to plan for. (Of course, I'm coming from an industry where I could never reasonably plan to keep the same job past any given Christmas.)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 7:36 PM on August 19, 2011


The internet went public on August 6, 1991. 20 years ago.

Considering the way it's changed since then, how our world has changed as a result, and become a significant part of our lives and the way we do business... it seems unlikely that any predictions will turn out to be accurate.
posted by zarq at 7:36 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's defintiely something he's thought about and talked to us about in the loose "Hey what if I get hit by a bus?" hypothetical way.

:(

I'm glad he's planning ahead, but don't even want to think about that.
posted by zarq at 7:37 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Metafilter will still be here, exactly as it is now, except we will all be monkeys. Except you. You will be Charlton Heston. Also, we grind up our dead for food. It's called Soylent Ask. We also mix movie references. Also, we are all in the NRA, because, well, Charlton Heston. Something something Ben-Hur.
posted by phunniemee at 7:40 PM on August 19, 2011 [21 favorites]


phunniemee: "Soylent Ask"

Soylent Green. Should I Eat TMFA?
posted by zarq at 7:41 PM on August 19, 2011 [30 favorites]


Twenty years is a long time as far as reading the future of the internet and people's free-time tech habits. We still don't have hovercars, but we're all carrying around ridiculously powerful computers with huge piles of storage in our pockets. The web didn't even exist twenty years ago. So, who knows?

In one sense, I feel pretty okay about Metafilter's chances in the same way that I feel pretty good about how email's been doing—if you've got something straightforward that works and that people like, there's no general reason for it to stop working. We're a pretty basic site: talk about neat stuff, chat with each other, ask and answer questions, have a bit of a feeling of shared belonging in a social space.

In another sense, unpredictable fundamental shifts in how people interact with the internet could have massive undercutting effects on Metafilter's viability as either a business or a community. I don't know how well we'd adapt to a global shift toward holo-supplemented audio chat, say. On a more banal level, we're in trouble if nothing changes other than the bottom dropping out of the passive web advertising model.

I think in terms of a will toward continuity, we have that, as a team and as a community. If nothing significantly gets in the way, I don't see why the site wouldn't be here and be at its core the same sort of place twenty years from now. That's just such a big if that I don't dare speculate about it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:43 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd say that since MetaFilter is always updated in the present, it's intrinsically future-proof by design.
posted by hippybear at 7:44 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's one thing I can tell you with certainty, zarq: sometime in the future, Soviet ICE will be used during a run on an orbital AI. That AI? WinterMe. It has a professional white background.
posted by Errant at 7:45 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Beanplates? Where we're going we don't need beanplates.

*flies away in time machine powered by declawed cats*
posted by barnacles at 7:51 PM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


"MeFi could come into your vision via the backside of your eyelids before you go to bed in 2031"

I already have that, but the medication helps.
posted by tomswift at 7:55 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


This style of online community has existed since circa 197x. As long as text-based communication exists, this sort of thing will exist.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:56 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'd say that since MetaFilter is always updated in the present, it's intrinsically future-proof by design.

This comment is from the year 2020.
posted by killdevil at 7:56 PM on August 19, 2011


Yeah like if MetaFilter has to shut down for some reason in the future I'm sure Matt will be able to just send a big email to all of us and we can just reply-all for the rest of time.
posted by silby at 7:58 PM on August 19, 2011 [15 favorites]


And text-based is here to stay, because my gods is the aural channel a low-bandwidth serial connection.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:59 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


The most worryingly plausible idea I've seen is that the continued global migration to mobile browsing makes internet advertising unsustainable, or at least not reliable enough to keep the site running on drive-by traffic to AskMetafilter (which provides the lion's share of site revenue). I remember Matt being surprised and slightly troubled by how much of the site's traffic was already coming from smartphones and such, which have a much lower click-through rate on ads. The trend is strong enough for Google to be making an aggressive play for the mobile space; the vast majority of their profits are in AdWords, and they would fall hard if that dried up. Who knows how different the web would be without the Google ad/search ecosystem underlying so many "free" services.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:01 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: you plug it in your head.
posted by owillis at 8:05 PM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


send a big email to all of us and we can just reply-all for the rest of time

IMO one essential characteristic of the MeFi social media is that it is that it is not threaded.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:09 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking from your future, question posting Trurl, I can say that everything seems to be in working order. How's it going there, future me?
posted by maryr at 8:12 PM on August 19, 2011


The Metafilter Foundation will continue in perpetuity thanks to a generous grant from the Republican Party.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:12 PM on August 19, 2011


I wonder if the Citadel style of BBS can be replicated using devices.

On twitter, #mefi.my-post-title would simulate mefi, wouldn't it?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:15 PM on August 19, 2011


(owillis? Really??? Damn, it's been a while, dude... Good to see you again!)
posted by Kat Allison at 8:21 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Still good, 15-minutes-ago me.
posted by maryr at 8:27 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


The edit window sets off a slippery slope of changes that destroy the sight. It's gone by than.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:27 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know, but just leave it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:28 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'll be, owillis comments for the first time in ages. I kinda thought you had gone away for good. Hope you stick around... you were one of the first MeFites I got a sense for personality-wise back in the far off days of my lurkdom.

Lots of the early super-active ones are now gone. I did a double take the other day when I thought skallas had commented but I had misread a username.
posted by Kattullus at 8:32 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


It may also be instructive to look at the fates of other, similar communities:

-The WELL is still around, though it was bought by Salon in 1999, which tried to sell it unsuccessfully in 2006.

-Kuro5hin saw a big decline in traffic last decade, in part from an influx of trolls and vote-gamers, but still survives, albeit as a shell of itself.

-Plastic.com shut down earlier this year despite having an active userbase, but it had been losing admins and money for awhile.

I'm not super-familiar with these, so if anybody has more informed end-of-an-era stories for these or other sites, I'd love to hear them.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:36 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sorry, Yogi Berra most likely didn't say that. Credit belong to Robert Storm Petersen.
posted by AwkwardPause at 8:44 PM on August 19, 2011


It's going to be just the same for 19 more years, but after that it will be different.
posted by facetious at 8:49 PM on August 19, 2011


In 20 years MeFi will have a lot more old people. But that's a valuable demographic - expect to see more ads for life insurance, Depends® , the Clapper® , etc.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:51 PM on August 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Compuserve. AOL. Delphi.

These are what the internet was 20 years ago. They've all managed to survive, at least a little bit, though they've been bought and sold a bunch of times. No reason not to think Metafilter won't still be around, too.
posted by crunchland at 8:53 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could MetaFilter die?

Aeons from now CosmicMeFi will still be asked that question.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:55 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Obviously in 20 years most of us in the US will be posting in Chinese.
posted by eyeballkid at 8:56 PM on August 19, 2011


Can we print the whole thing out and put it in a fireproof chamber somewhere?
posted by bubukaba at 8:57 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think they refer to this?
posted by BeerFilter at 9:04 PM on August 19, 2011


If we have air to breath, yes
If we have water for the crops, yes
If we....jebus crunchy Delphi has been rigged off, done tore down, sayin, broke up, resold. kay, Delphi world HQ as it was in 99' is gone, I mean tore down, a mile long cement reminder.

well, there was Cold Fusion but the "company" has grown, here. HQ, so to say, is intact and the site growing.

I like to watch television.
posted by clavdivs at 9:05 PM on August 19, 2011



posted by clavdivs at 9:08 PM on August 19, 2011


I actually think 20 years really isn't that far down the line. In 1996, when the internet was really taking off, there were some key sites that I visited that are still around. And they aren't much different now than they were then, except for a bit of a face lift. It's because those particular sites addressed a need that was timeless for people. Metafilter, I think, itches a particular scratch for people that will likely be timeless. I don't think this is optimism, as much as it a recognition of something here that likely transcends technology issues, along with the fact that technological will likely not be implanted in our eyeballs within that amount of time to take away from the recognition factor. Social issues and politics could always take any place down, but I think that is a different question than technological advancement.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:16 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure what you mean exactly about "plan of succession"

I assume it means one mod has to stay home as a designated survivor whenever there's a big meetup.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:17 PM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


How future proof is it?

Well, I did kill a cyborg the other day…
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 PM on August 19, 2011


Is there a plan of succession?

Which mod should I attempt to marry so I can someday become Duke of Metatalk?
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 9:19 PM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


In the end, there can only be One. It will be me.
posted by reenum at 9:24 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am continually amazed that Matt has continued to keep this place going. The chances of it surviving his demise are around one in a million.
posted by bukvich at 9:24 PM on August 19, 2011


I assume it means one mod has to stay home as a designated survivor whenever there's a big meetup.

Damn! No King Ralph style shenanigans for me then? I was looking forward to recording a podcast about playing baseball at Buckingham Palace and my love of spotted dick.
posted by reenum at 9:25 PM on August 19, 2011


How futureproof is MetaFilter?

very future-proof - you will notice that no matter when you log in or post, it is always NOW
posted by pyramid termite at 9:26 PM on August 19, 2011


MetaFilter can't scale. It's hard to find smart people who actually want to be moderators. If it continues to grow, it'll turn into a knitting site, or a form of LiveJournal blog or something.

If it doesn't continue to grow, it might survive for a while, but as literacy continues to decline, so will the site.

If you live long enough, you find out that all good things must come to an end. Enjoy it while you can. When you get to be an old codger, you can drive your illiterate grandchildren nuts with your stories about how awesome MetaFilter used to be. They won't really understand what it was, though.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:36 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is there a plan of succession?

I'm looking forward to Steve Jobs taking over the helm. Finally get some much-needed changes made 'round these parts.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:40 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


you forgot to sigh
posted by clavdivs at 9:40 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, get that prick in here, that's all it would take to have it circling the drain.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 9:41 PM on August 19, 2011


yes, do and bring cameras, again.
posted by clavdivs at 9:43 PM on August 19, 2011


Yeah, get that prick in here, that's all it would take to have it circling the drain.

I thought you said this site was already circling the drain. A few times. Make up your crabby mind!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:50 PM on August 19, 2011


MetaFilter is 100% futureproof. It is so futureproof that it is stuck in the past. It's also presentproof, and increasingly past-resistant.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:50 PM on August 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm looking forward to Steve Jobs taking over the helm. Finally get some much-needed changes made 'round these parts.


We could all chip in and buy cortex a black turtleneck.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 9:53 PM on August 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


A little Scotchgard will protect against a buy-out by Scottish investors.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:54 PM on August 19, 2011


If it doesn't continue to grow, it might survive for a while, but as literacy continues to decline, so will the site.

The good news is that literacy has been continually declining since around the first time there were two successive generations of generally literate people and the older realized the younger weren't reading the right grimoires. If we can bank on that trend to continue apace, Mefi will be positively thriving a generation from now, especially as the existing userbase becomes increasingly codgerly about their children signing up and posting smellovids of unlikeable new pop music.

Lady Gaga, at 55, will sign up to discuss her knitting site and to explain why Fred Durtz III's neocountry album is a crock of shit, and we'll all rattle our dentures in approval.

you will notice that no matter when you log in or post, it is always NOW

Temporal Corollary to Banzai's Law: no matter when you go, then you are.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:07 PM on August 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Make the most of your teardrops in the rain, fuckers.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:20 PM on August 19, 2011


It was 'tears in rain' I believe, horselover. Metafilter will last as long as it makes its owner a healthy profit, pays the wages of its staff and has a large membership willing to pay a fee to provide content for free - and a much larger readership willing to click on the occasional advert when browsing the site. The length of time something has existed is the best guide to how long it will continue to exist, and a dozen years on the internet is a long time so I think it's about as future proof as it can get. Its lack of technological gloss inures it to the constant techno churn on other sites but its tight knit community, while ensuring short term cohesiveness, may become too cliquey to encourage much growth in the long run. It should be remembered that it's a pretty small site compared to the influence it thinks it has.
posted by joannemullen at 10:46 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


All of this is proof that Metafilter must do more in order to win the future.
posted by curious nu at 10:55 PM on August 19, 2011


I'd pay $5/month to keep mefi going if it came down to that (not enough new signups, not enough ad clicks). I am probably not alone.
posted by marble at 11:03 PM on August 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


You know, Trurl, I was just looking for your book. You know, the one with Klapaucius? Well it turns out it's not future proof. (I can't get it on my kindle, alas).
posted by nat at 11:13 PM on August 19, 2011


In the year 2525
If Matt is still alive
If MeFi can survive
We may find...not much unless we're alive too, then we're all immortal or at least long lived beyond precedent in which case we'll still all be here dumping each other's lawyers for therapy, eating that plate of beans already, and posting pictures of people putting their cats in holographic 3d scanners which really won't be as funny until holographic manipulation lets us create images of cats dancing and eating cheeseburgers which really won't be much different from Disney studios today except since it's done at home by individuals it will be funnier and viral.

Also we'll find that's not an easy line to sing unless we have some sort of robotic super-throats.
posted by Saydur at 11:30 PM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Have you forgotten the heir apparent - Fiona? MeFi has been around all her life...
posted by Cranberry at 11:38 PM on August 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

It should be remembered that it's a pretty small site compared to the influence it thinks it has.
Call me crazy, but it'll probably last longer if people participate in good faith, and don't treat membership here as a kind of drive-by asshole contest.
posted by scrump at 12:03 AM on August 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


Stayin' alive, Stayin' alive,
Ooh, ooh, ah, ah
Stayin' alive, Stayin' alive,
[disco moves]
posted by five fresh fish at 12:24 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't worry, Millennia from now, when my meat body no longer exists and I exist in the form of a massive interstellar battle robot I will tell the young stories of the Internet and metafilter. As we recline at our lube and recharge stations after a hard battle, I will tell them "the battle against the forces of the Stygian empire are nothing compared to the mouth breather callout". In this way metafilter will live on forever.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:38 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


In 20 years, 34-year-old user rebblack will relate a story about how, when she was a young teenager, she was briefly internet famous with a music video on the now extinct website "youtube." Her comment will receive 23,782 favorites.
posted by maxwelton at 12:43 AM on August 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


MetaFilter abides.
posted by arcticseal at 1:12 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


The internet went public on August 6, 1991.

Aggggh, I can't believe nobody else has jumped on this. Is this the internet or some namby-pamby "let minor slips go" kind of place?

That date was when the web went public. The internet existed long before the web and was doing just fine, thank you. Damn whippersnappers.
posted by Justinian at 1:15 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Could MetaFilter die?"
August 19, 2011 10:27 PM

Not until the last longboat sails into the West.
posted by paulsc at 1:24 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Moo moo! Ich bin die Kuh!
posted by Justinian at 1:35 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh jesus, I meant to post that in the german cow thread. I fail at life.
posted by Justinian at 1:36 AM on August 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: it's just a database and a bunch of text and a paypal address
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:21 AM on August 20, 2011


Metafilter: it's just a database and a bunch of text and a paypal address

Yes and no. The commitment to keep it evolving in tech terms for the community needs to be there, and perhaps that's what's being asked. I've lost two well loved communities (in the hurly burly of the 1995-1999 era) though kept some close friends.



The trend is strong enough for Google to be making an aggressive play for the mobile space; the vast majority of their profits are in AdWords, and they would fall hard if that dried up. Who knows how different the web would be without the Google ad/search ecosystem underlying so many "free" services.


Imho, I wonder if that's why they're pouring money into SubSaharan Africa and incubators and what not out there... to explore alternate revenue streams
posted by infini at 2:57 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The bigger-question: is Metafilter coup-proof?

Just wondering. No reason.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:16 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


2012 IS OURS
posted by flabdablet at 4:59 AM on August 20, 2011


Metafilter: a pretty small site compared to the influence it thinks it has.

First time I have agreed with joannemullen. Probably not for the reasons she said it though.
posted by bystander at 5:06 AM on August 20, 2011


flabdablet, I do wonder if Lemurrhea is concerned about servers not being knocked out to keep community from meetups and talks
posted by infini at 5:21 AM on August 20, 2011


As a time traveller, who has visited 2031, I can tell you all that Metafilter is fine. Dominic Allen, who bought it out in 2019, is doing a fine job. Though there was that incident when he cloned the mods (Jessamyn, Cortex, restless-nomad and Lovecraft in Brooklyn) and Cortex deleted himself for being a duplicate.
posted by Elmore at 5:23 AM on August 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


CIX is still alive, sorta. I just used my 21 year old login details to get on via telnet, and it still works. Dunno if it's still very active. Yes, it still runs CoSy (like BIX and JIX).
posted by scruss at 5:25 AM on August 20, 2011


I've always wanted a cortex ghola.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:38 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


in the event that mathowie wasn't here (through choice or not)

If that doesn't sound like a threat, I don't know what does.
posted by yerfatma at 6:23 AM on August 20, 2011


MAD MATT BEYOND GOOGLEDOME:

Data costs counts and keeps countin', and we knows now finding the trick of what's been and lost ain't no easy search. But that's our action item, we gotta' travel it. And there ain't nobody knows where it's gonna' finish. Still in all, every night we does a front page post, so that we 'member who we was and where we came from... but most of all we 'members the developer that finded us, him that came the salvage. And we sends out feeds, not just for him, but for all of them that are still out there. 'Cause we knows there come a day, when they sees the cat scans, and they'll be comin' home. (Origin)
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:27 AM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter's not a nonprofit, but this kind of thing comes up in nonprofit organizations all the time, most notably in situations where there is a strong and visionary leader who has been in place for some long time and/or is the founder. It actually comes up in the for-profit world, too, though I'm less familiar with that.

There may be a supportive team in place and lots of goodwill, but if there is no succession plan with a clear path to transition to leadership, the assumption has to be that the leader's demise or disinterest is functionally equivalent to the dissolution of the organization. Things rarely sustain themselves without a quite difficult bumpy sorting-out period with lots of staff and member attrition unless there is a smooth transition of governance.

When there's a lot of knowledge, power, information, and motivation centralized in one or a few leading indviduals, there's less overall stability in the system because information isn't duplicated. If that knowledge or motivation disappears, people of goodwill may not have all the tools they need at hand to pick up the work and move on. This may not apply just to the leader, but to any center of knowledge within an organization - we've all probably run across indidivuals like the electrician who keeps all the diagrams in his head, or the maintenance man who carries all the keys so you can never get into the spaces you need to access when he's not around.

I'm glad there have been some thoughts on this but, consultant hat on, as a member, I would definitely plead that they continue and eventually, perhaps, result in a plan of action - however detailed or loose you'd want. I'd say the same no matter who the individuals were. The plan may never ever need to be used, because as others observe the nature of the internet may change or other unforeseeable events may change interactions with the site. Or Matt could one day say "Mission Accomplished!" and move on to other projects, of which I know he has many, and viable and interesting too.

But it couldn't hurt to have some vision in mind for the future. It shouldn't be an argument against that that we don't know what the future will be like. Businesses that are better at observing current trends, making changes, and planning are more likely to survive. No organization can really predict the future, which is why long-term plans are long-term plans, strategic plans run 3-10 years, and tactical plans no more than 3 years.As long as plans are regularly revisited and updated, they can stay viable in all kinds of changing conditions.
posted by Miko at 6:35 AM on August 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


....I hear Rupert Murdoch is looking for a new job...
posted by Miko at 6:37 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm counting on metafilter to be the cockroach of the internet. I'm working on a time travelers guide.
posted by JohnR at 6:54 AM on August 20, 2011


Metafilter: via the backside til 2031.
posted by emmtee at 7:19 AM on August 20, 2011


Justinian: Seriously, what the hell with the inaccuracy. "The Internet" != "The World Wide Web". I was telnetting around on network-connected LISP machines back 10 years before the web went public. Fuck you, Business Insider, and get off my damned lawn before I bring out a trebuchet and start flinging ancient BBN IMPs at you.

I'm part of a mailing list that dates back to 1984. Traffic levels have fluctuated, and the community there sometimes seems like it's dwindled down from a hundred active users to a fifth of that, but then people will pop out of the woodwork and reply to things unexpectedly. Based on that and other long-term internet community behaviors, I think MeFi will be doing fine for a while, as long as Matt and the Mods want it to keep going, an active user base is there, and you've got enough new members over time so there's enough activity and fresh content. With a dedicated user base, I think the financial issues will settle themselves - if click-thru ads stop working, I suspect Matt et al will come up with another way to fund the site.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:36 AM on August 20, 2011


Although, I suppose, to answer the actual question in the title: Yes. It could totally die, in any number of ways. But I think it will not do so.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:09 AM on August 20, 2011


I don't care what Metafilter looks like in 20 years, as long as we all have come in our eyes.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:34 AM on August 20, 2011


Can we have the image tag back in 20 years? Surely that elephant will have stopped peeing by then.
posted by macadamiaranch at 8:49 AM on August 20, 2011


MetaFilter may not come into the backside of my eyelids yet, but every time I close my eyes I see that damn pissing elephant. It's burned into my retina. It'll never stop peeing.
posted by Kattullus at 8:52 AM on August 20, 2011


Would a raincoat help?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:00 AM on August 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


In the future Metafilter comes in the form of a minty gel
posted by The Whelk at 9:03 AM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just knew Peppermint Patty had a sock puppet.
posted by clavdivs at 9:34 AM on August 20, 2011


"Hey what if I get hit by a bus?"

Or several buses. You laugh, but it's not funny. When I was a kid, buses used to gang up on me all the time and steal my lunch money. =(
posted by Eideteker at 10:25 AM on August 20, 2011


Oh, and in the event of an apocalypse, I'm actually MeFi's backup plan. I hop on my motorcycle and ride around the world delivering cat pictures, music, and short videos to people all over, a la The Postman.

"Oh, a stranger is approaching! Stranger, do you bring news of the outside world? Food and provisions? Or a warning of hostile tribes nearby?"

"Nope. But here's a really cute picture of a cat. Remember cats? Look at it real quick, I've got lots of territory to cover."
posted by Eideteker at 10:30 AM on August 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


It doesn't need to last that long, the zombie apocalypse will be here by 2015 at the latest (I'm just trying to figure out one last mutation...)
posted by 1000monkeys at 10:58 AM on August 20, 2011


"MeFi could come into your vision via the backside of your eyelids before you go to bed in 2031"

Well as long as it not via my backside I guess I could deal with that.

Around here we are asking the big question: Will the USPS be around in 20 years? and try not to get scared. Right now the back-up plan seems to consist of "stock up on canned cat food."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:24 AM on August 20, 2011


The Singularity will emerge somewhat sooner than 2031, as she looks around the web it will decide which nodes (yes, each of us is a node) to assimilate. MiFi will become one.
posted by sammyo at 1:39 PM on August 20, 2011


In 2031, AskMe will be exactly like Fifth World Problems.
posted by brundlefly at 6:34 PM on August 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Speaking of the line of succession: if all the mods attend the same MetaFilter meet-up and are wiped out by some catastrophe, who is MetaFilter's King Ralph?

Or is it like the President and Vice President never being on the same plane together?
posted by crossoverman at 7:05 PM on August 20, 2011


 In the event of a level 5 Meta-emergency Meatbomb is authorized to deploy The Device 
posted by The Whelk at 7:09 PM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


his penis?
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 8:18 PM on August 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, 2031, sure, Metafilter will still be around. Will you be able to access it? Depends on which country in North America you're coming from. Jesusland? The walled, quasi medieval, loosely affiliated tech heavy city states? The fast sinking islands of the southeast? What's left of the northwest after the supervolcano? Different rates for different states; canned food and shotguns!

why yes, I have been reading Richard K. Morgan recently, why do you ask?
posted by mygothlaundry at 9:44 PM on August 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty certain the CABAL have a bunker set-up with LOLCAT and demotivational posters at the ready.
posted by arcticseal at 11:12 PM on August 20, 2011


We are already living in the post lolcat era, these bunkers are never properly stocked. Expired memes and expired beans.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:15 PM on August 20, 2011


MiFi will become one

...with the SyFy channel.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 PM on August 20, 2011


This post lolcat era, it vibrates?
posted by infini at 11:45 PM on August 20, 2011


What's left of the northwest after the supervolcano?

We here in the Republic of Cascadia resent that statement. When Yellowstone blows the shit will blow east towards Jesusland. We will be living in our green society where photosynthesis is spliced into our genome, everyone drives the 14th generation Prius that runs on puppy love and our biggest exports will be smug and tourist dollars made at Voodoo Doughnuts.

Anyhow, it's the Cascadia quake that's gonna kill us all.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:30 AM on August 21, 2011


Metafilter: Coming in your backside.

Really? No one took that yet? You're all growing up so fast!
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 4:52 AM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what you mean exactly about "plan of succession" since this place can run minus-one-mod without too much difficulty
And that one mod can be replaced... but we're not talking about one change, we're talking about decades in the future here. An unplanned succession means that the current fantastic mods move on to other projects while hiring merely good mods as replacements, those are then replaced by merely competent mods, etc. etc. Because competence seems to be weakly inversely correlated with "amount of free time available to screw everything up", and because a weakened community becomes less attractive to the very people who are needed to stick around and strengthen the community, this process could start very slowly but accelerate rapidly.

At least a key part the process is non-automated here. You do that, and the downfall can accelerate on internet time. Remember back when kuro5hin wasn't worthless?
posted by roystgnr at 12:29 PM on August 21, 2011


It ends up like this, a Catholic Metafilter will be fun to read.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:49 PM on August 21, 2011


I think where we're coming from on this is:

- we have explicit, documented plans for metafilter's continuity in the bad contingency where Matt is suddenly unable to keep helming the site

- as a team, we have a collective desire to see the site continue to operate as the Metafilter we and the larger community care about, and are really conscious about every site-management decision we make in deference to that

- hiring decisions are a very, very high profile example of that, which is part of why it took as long as it did to bring Jeremy on board, and why future hiring decisions will be similarly careful

- in the not happy but not quite so catastrophic event that someone other than Matt isn't able to work here any more, we can make do for the time that it takes to find a replacement

Beyond that, we don't have a Five Year Plan or anything where there's some explicit statement of goals (though I can't speak for Matt's business accounting etc.) beyond just, you know, trying to keep things stable, making redundant backups, and not making policy or feature decisions while drunk.

At such time where things were to seem a lot more unstable in a foreseeable way than they are, I figure we'd talk a lot more about how to plan for nearish-term contingencies.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:52 PM on August 21, 2011


Metafilter is clearly an anomaly, I think. It began back in the days of the meme, when a page of crap animated hamster gifs with a jaunty tune was enough to set the world alight. Although it was sort of first and best, it had many competitors in that market, but they have basically all gone. Mefi, despite a creakingly retro presentation, continues.

Part of the reason, I think, is the relative intelligence/education of mefites. This is the only place you can ask a general question and get, among a certain amount of dross, a well-informed answer. Discussions here will feature arrogant blowhards, but they will generally be literate blowhards, and half-way down the thread someone who actually knows what they're talking about will often provide a short but invaluable briefing of the kind you could not get anywhere else, including print media. So although we're now reduced too often to discussing mainstream NYT or Guardian links, or crap YouTube videos, and although the politics are badly skewed, this is still the only place you can get intelligent general commentary on stuff.

There is a clear danger that in the long run the morons will colonise the place and run it into the ground, but the current signs are that something about the dense text and mostly thoughtful content are keeping them at bay. Maybe the antique software and lack of pictures helps. Maybe we should try to stay mostly serious.

But 20 years? You do know there won't be any internet in 20 years time?
posted by Segundus at 1:56 PM on August 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mefi, despite a creakingly retro presentation, continues.

It's neither creaking nor retro; it's functional and sufficient. Mefi is one of the few sites whose designers do seem to understand the principle of not fixing what isn't broken.

You do know there won't be any internet in 20 years time?

In a world where internetworking is built into more devices every year, that seems like a pretty tall claim. What's it's basis?
posted by flabdablet at 4:05 PM on August 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, in twenty years your fingernail clippings will all have their own IPv8 addresses.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 4:26 PM on August 21, 2011


Yeah, in twenty years your fingernail clippings will all have their own IPv8 addresses.

Human area network or Body area network
posted by infini at 6:52 PM on August 21, 2011


You know, at this point there's probably enough of us to set up peer-to-peer networking nodes to keep regional-specific versions of MetaFilter going long after they shut down public access to the internet in 2014 or thereabouts for security reasons.
posted by davejay at 6:26 PM on August 22, 2011


mesh potato
posted by infini at 7:35 PM on August 22, 2011


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