PSA: Do Not Use Services That Hate The Internet

Don't make me tap the sign: app-only interfaces are not a part of the World Wide Web. As you look around for a new social media platform, I implore you, only use one that is a part of the World Wide Web.

tl;dr avoid Hive and Post.

If posts in a social media app do not have URLs that can be linked to and viewed in an unauthenticated browser, or if there is no way to make a new post from a browser, then that program is not a part of the World Wide Web in any meaningful way.

Consign that app to oblivion.

Most social media services want to lock you in. They love their walled gardens and they think that so long as they tightly control their users and make it hard for them to escape, they will rule the world forever.

This was the business model of Compuserve. And AOL. And then a little thing called The Internet got popular for a minute in the mid 1990s, and that plan suddenly didn't work out so well for those captains of industry.

The thing that makes the Internet useful is interoperability. These companies hate that. The thing that makes the Internet become more useful is the open source notion that there will always be more smart people who don't work for your company than that do, and some of those people will find ways to expand on your work in ways you never anticipated. These companies hate that, too. They'd rather you have nothing than that you have something they don't own.

Instagram started this trend: they didn't even have a web site until 2012. It was phone-app-only. They were dragged kicking and screaming onto the World Wide Web by, ironically, Facebook, who bought them to eliminate them as competition.

Hive Social is exactly this app-only experience. Do not use Hive. Anyone letting that app -- or anything like it -- get its hooks into them is making a familiar and terrible mistake. We've been here before. Don't let it happen again.

John Ripley:

So many people, who should know better, blogging about their switch to Hive on the basis of user experience or some other vacuous crap, and not fundamentals like, "Is this monetized, and if not yet, when how and who?" or "who runs this?" or "is it sane to choose another set of castle walls to live as a peasant within?"

Post Dot News also seems absolutely vile.

First of all, Marc Andreessen is an investor, and there is no redder red flag than that. "How much more red? None. None more red", as Spinal Tap would say. He's a right wing reactionary whose idea of "free speech" is in line with Musk, Trump, Thiel and the rest of the Klept.

Second, it appears to be focused on "micropayments", which these days means "cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes", another of marca's favorite grifts.

They call themselves "a platform for real people, civil conversations". So, Real Names Policy and tone policing by rich white dudes is how I translate that. But hey, at least their TOS says they won't discriminate against billionaires:

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of their gender, religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, net worth, or beliefs.

Mastodon is kind of a mess right now, and maybe it will not turn out to be what you or I are looking for. But to its credit, interoperability is at its core, rather than being something that the VCs will just take away when it no longer serves their growth or onboarding projections.

There is a long history of these data silos (and very specifically Facebook, Google and Twitter) being interoperable, federating, providing APIs and allowing others to build alternate interfaces -- until they don't. They keep up that charade while they are small and growing, and drop it as soon as they think they can get away with it, locking you inside.

Incidentally, and tangentially relatedly, Signal is not a messaging program but rather is a sketchy-as-fuck growth-at-any-cost social network. Fuck Signal too.

Update: Aaaaaaaannnnnnd.... Hive Social got popped already.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Current Music: Whale -- Eye 842 ♬

47 Responses:

  1. Rodger says:

    Adding “net worth” as a point of non-discrimination is peak VC culture.

    Because you know they won’t be banning people for sentiments like “you shouldn’t have children if you can’t afford them”.

  2. Krisjohn says:

    If you need to promote something I guess you have to follow people's attention, but for everything else there's a blog with an RSS feed.

  3. mykd says:

    Really well put. Let's hope this message percolates through to enough of those who are running around looking for new homes built on the same ground as the old homes that just started collapsing. John Ripley's comment is perfect.

  4. Chris says:

    Can you say more about Signal or point me to some writing on why its bad?

    • jwz says:

      We click links in this house.

      • Chris says:

        Haha. My bad. Missed the link. Thanks.

        • Paul says:

          It's not necessary to thank a person who is being condescending to you. Nor should you feel the need to apologize for missing the link. We are all human.

          • says:

            Well, I'd consider it polite to post a short “thanks, that was the answer I'm looking for” when I get exactly that. Beside, even if you consider jwz' reply a bit condescending, it was at least helpful and certainly not below average if you've seen a couple of lime green comments on this blog.

      • killerog says:

        Then please give them a better description than “previously”. Now I have to check back here on a device with a mouse, because mobile has no quick and easy way to see which is which.

        • jwz says:

          Well first of all, fuck you, no. It's my blog and I'll write it in the way that entertains me the most. If you don't like that, there are many other products on the market that may be a better use for your dollar.

          But second, in this case the "why is signal bad" answer was linked directly from the text saying it was bad, you jackass.

          • spammir says:

            If i pay nothing, yet i am entertained, you tricked me into infinite utility for my investment. What vile philosophical trickery.

          • Frank McConnell says:

            Dear Lazyweb, what is best current practice for indicating a hyperlink in text?

            Signed, kinda missing blue underlined text

            PS I think it is done adequately here but then I'm reading this in a browser on a laptop because the browser on my phone always leaves me missing a larger screen and a keyboard

  5. doop says:

    Was it Andreessen who did famously stinky shits at Netscape?

  6. Carlos says:

    My other favourite example of sites/platforms pulling the Lucy van Pelt on the public is Slack.  Way back when, a number of my clients started switching from using IRC for realtime text comms to using Slack.  "Oh, but it's so pretty.  And you can paste a link and it shows you a preview, you don't even have to click it to open in your browser!"

    I grumbled, looked around, and found lots of other people who didn't trust their app - "but we have an IRC gateway!".  And I used it, right up until they had enough critical mass that their customers wouldn't leave over it, and they shut the IRC gateway down with the flimsiest of explanations - the truth, of course, was "because we can't monetize you that way", but that doesn't look good on a motivational poster.

    And now we're stuck using Slack.


  7. Doctor Memory says:

    Not that you're obliged to gossip on our account, but I'm curious, you're in a position to know and you don't seem concerned about getting invited to the 30th NSCP reunion part on pmarca's yacht, so I'll ask: was he always this much of a reactionary, self-impressed dipshit, or is this just another sad case of a competent engineer suddenly having 1.7 billion reasons never to again have to consider the idea that he might not be the most interesting person in the room?

  8. sleep says:

    very interesting to read that post about signal now. i know very little about them, other than the fact that the verge recently ran a fawning interview with the CEO, and nilay was exceptionally willing to accept the company's PR one-liners at face value (many of which you neatly debunk in this post some two years prior to said interview). disappointing, on several levels.

    your repeated attempts to give mastodon a better-than-fair shake got me to put in a little more effort myself, and it does seem slightly better than what i had initially experienced (the native app seems to work a bit better than the web app does). i'd still bet it's ultimately headed nowhere, but at least now i'm rooting for it...

  9. Alan Ralph says:

    I'm keeping an eye on Mastodon and the other decentralised platforms, they are definitely getting some things right and I'm hopeful they'll evolve and improve.

    Not surprised that the app-only mindset is alive and well in 2022. I suspect that part of the reason why web accessibility is still an afterthought is because companies (and governments) deem anyone who can't afford a smartphone to be unworthy of consideration or care, along with the poor and anyone with a disability.

    As for Marc Andreeessen, he's a real-life Conehead now, so I guess he doesn't feel the need for a human-suit anymore.

  10. tfb says:

    Which services don't hate the internet?  For instance I have more-or-less given up looking at Twitter threads because it's effectively impossible via a browser unless you're logged in (perhaps there are browser extensions which defang this: I have a bunch of extensions but none that work).  Reddit is essentially hopeless on a mobile device as they really, really want you to have their app.  I have to employ people with Facebook accounts to look at Facebook for me if I need information which is on it. And so on.

    A guess at an answer: anything run by people who want to get rich from it will end up hating the internet.  Anything not tun by such people can't scale. That leaves federation which also seems not to work very well due to what looks like large-scale Dunning-Kruger infection among the implementors based on posts here in the last few days.

    • AA says:

      If you're using iOS try using the app "Apollo" for Reddit, the official app is ungodly bad.

      • tfb says:

        A different app than the default app is ... not the answer.

        • AA says:

          Glad I tried to help you

        • Kyzer says:

          But it is. This is what interoperability is about. There's nothing wrong with preferring a third-party app for a website. It's the logical extension of adding add-ons and userscripts to your user agent, the web browser, so it renders the site how you like it.

          Reddit's current UI is awful and they blatantly are trying to draw users into their app by making the default web experience so bad, as well as buying Alien Blue in order to destroy it. But you don't have to use it. There still exists and andmore importantly you can add ".json" to any URL for machine-readable form. That's a lot better than the locked-down, monetized, rate-limited Twitter API, or the actively hostile Youtube that tries to obfuscate where the video's coming from. Reddit's open API means there are a wealth of apps that are better for browsing Reddit than its own app or its own website

    • coco says:

      If you're on Android, the Fenix2 app for twitter makes reading threads much better. It cuts out everything that visually clutters threads and just leaves text.

    • bh says:

      You can try a nitter instance from for a better twitter browser experience.

    • Not Frank says:

      I've found forcing (sometimes with desktop mode) is ... passable for reddit on mobile. Also sometimes necessary on desktop.

  11. Carlos says:

    "Don't use <service>'s proprietary app, use this other app that talks to the service's proprietary API" is not really a solution to "this proprietary service is not open and does not interoperate" problem.

    A couple people seem to have thought it was an improvement... ?


  12. Bill Paul says:

    So, I know I'm just an unfrozen caveman and your modern ways frighten and confuse me, but it's always seemed to me that most "apps" are really just web browsers that only browse one web site. In the worst cases they're little better than desktop shortcuts; they're just excuses to shove a logo in peoples' faces.

    Now I know they're not all like that, but it makes it hard to understand what constitutes a practical app use case in the first place.

    With things like Danger Sidekick/Hiptop, which helped launch the whole app craze, you had problems in that a) while you did have network connectivity, the bandwidth was very limited (they did GSM/EDGE only) and b) the device hardware just wasn't powerful enough to run a full web browser. So you were forced to strip things down into single-purpose programs.

    Obviously those problems have been solved: we now have fast web browsers on every device. But if that's so, what's the benefit of also having an app for every web service? I do think there can be advantages in some cases because HTTP is not the best way to solve every problem. Maybe you can give the user faster response with a standalone app that directly connects to your database, or faster video streaming speed with your app's custom codec. If this doesn't matter to them, then maybe they can just keep using a browser, and you can get the best of both worlds.

    The only problem with this is it means that as the service provider you have to support two different access mechanisms, and now management will start clutching its pearls over how much this might affect the budget. In the end you may have to mollify them by promising there's extra money to be made by *checks notes* the collection and morally dubious exploitation of user data.

    I'm also not thrilled with the proliferation of apps into places that arguably don't need them. You want to put money in the parking meter? Use an app. Want to ride the bus? Use an app. Want to pay your rent? Use an app. Want to collect your unemployment check? Use an app. Want to do your laundry? Use an app. Again, I may be an unfrozen caveman, but it seems to me you can't make it so that everybody needs a smartphone (or a computer) to do every little thing if not everybody has one. And everybody does not.

    • jwz says:

      The number of things that you can do with a native app that you can't with a web page impersonating an app is pretty small, but used to be much larger. And many apps, possibly most these days, really are just a frame around a web-view.

      The cynical among us might suspect that the primary motivator for rolling out a native app is that it enables levels of surveillance and data exfiltration that are much more difficult when running inside the main web browser app.

      But doing that would be wrong.

      • Rusty Brooks says:

        My favorite anti-pattern is when, for no real reason except that they're written by different people, the app and the website have different useful features and neither is a subset of the other.  So if I want to do X I need the app and if I want to do Y I need the website.  2 that come to mind right off the bat are Strava and Myfitnesspal, but that's because I used to work for the company that owned Myfitnesspal and a competitor to Strava.  (Our strava-competitor probably had similar problems but I don't remember because I didn't like using it)

  13. mattl says:

    I see a number of artists starting to use Hive because the sign up process is familiar to them. ie.. They can open the app and get the same username they have elsewhere and not have to pick a server, join a waitlist, etc.

    It has a ton of problems of course. It wants access to all of your photos, for one.

  14. tonyc says:

    Thanks for this.  Elon's choice to light billions on fire to be the main character in a Downfall reboot is a precious chance to break out of Twitter's network effects and migrate to a newer platform that maintains as many of Twitter's advantages without its many weaknesses.  I don't know that such a platform exists, but at least pointing out which new platforms aren't it is a valuable service.

    • sleep says:

      the best answer at this point is mastodon, which is a shame, because it’s a fairly crummy answer

  15. Gible Fog says:

    Ehh. I remember the internet before the World Wide Web, and frankly I'm not at all convinced that everything must be webified. I think it's much more important that 'net services be interoperable than be required to display everything they have to the world.

  16. I created a account and mastodon about the same time. feels a lot like quibi for text that happened to be in the right place at the right time.  

    • jwz says:

      Heh, I said yesterday, "I see Metafilter linked to my blog, and it is still compulsory for comments to lead off with pearl clutching about both my 'tone' and color scheme. Never change!"

  17. ChoHag says:

    *mic drop*

    Listen, or learn. It's your choice.

  18. jwz says:


    damn it sucks that the site i like was destroyed by someone with capital exercising their arbitrary will over it to try and make a quick buck. anyway time to move to this venture capital funded app

  • Previously