Voat as a Cautionary Tale

Feb. 11, 2023 [technology] [politics]

In 2014 Voat became a destination of migration for groups who found themselves banished from REEddit. It was superior in a number of ways including a point rationing system to reduce vote induced groupthink, being open sourced (at a time when REEddit, which began as OSS, started closing their code up). It had better visibility and engagement with posts by virtue of having a smaller userbase, an open stance against censorship by the administrators (Atko, PuttItOut), and was self/community financed as opposed to REEddit’s shareholders, Conde Nast. At first, it was a diverse crowd. There were techies, there were health buffs, there were race realists and other outcasts.

But as an increasing number of refugees flooded the site, the culture, as well as the server capacity itself, fell under strain. Goats once cherished a hazing tradition to thin the incoming crowds while retaining the thick skinned cream of the crop. But even this wasn’t enough to stem the tides. And the proportion of those who held tunnel vision focus exclusively on judaism and race had reached a critical mass which in turn drove away some of those technologists and other demographics. The tone of the site began transforming primarily into their domain of subject matter. By 2017, financial woes befell Voat and Atko stepped down. They ultimately shut down in 2020 after exhausting the remaining funds.

In the time since Voat essentially became home to a singular political ideology, it it had become unrecognizable to the Voat of 2014. This is an issue looming over all “refuge” sites. They become known as “that place for X political tribe”, and then subject to all of the usual attacks which follow. Voat is now back up in an unofficial capacity with a much smaller userbase and only questionably in the spirit of old Voat. Sadly, they use cuckflare, and anyways I am long since done with any link aggregator sites. It is just completely inferior to building your own RSS feed and leaving discussion to the federated web or forums proper.

The Voat experience, for me, was a glimpse into the lifecycle of alt sites and the forces which drive them to eventual ruin. Centralizing communities all into one place and relying on the good will of a benevolent overlord is a recipe for failure. Even when the administration is principled and the space started out in good faith. I’ll consider Voat’s rise and fall a tale of caution for those who still think in terms of platforms.