Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2020/ Meetup Fallout

Meetup Fallout

I did not know this, but in October 2019 experimented with charging attendees $2 per meeting, and the Internet got mad. The company subsequently retreated, with their CEO confirming their original position with a lot of weasel-words:

Let's be clear: does not care about whether people hold successful meetups, and they never have. But they are desperate not to lose their network-effect advantage, and if everybody abandons them they will be Livejournaled into irrelevance. So they are telling us that (for now!) meetups on will continue to be free for attendees, but nowhere in the CEO letter are they ruling out such changes in the future.

After I read about this brouhaha, I was at first relieved. I had bad experiences organizing the NetSquared meetup on the platform, and my opinions have not changed. For a few seconds I allowed myself to dream of a federated future where lots of organizations put events into the world in RSS and iCal formats, and then people interested in those events consumed them. Then I woke up to reality: whatever replaces is going to be much worse.

For me, Meetup's primary advantages are:

At this point, I feel the most likely replacement for is Facebook, which has (as far as I can tell) none of these features. Most LGBTQ+ events in the region are organized on Facebook, and I find out about approximately none of them. Tech meetups will go the same way.

The other gorilla in the meeting space is Eventbrite, but Eventbrite shut down its search API in December, which is making it really difficult for me to keep on top of Eventbrite events.

Most calendaring sites I see these days have no API and no RSS feeds, which makes them useless to me. The same goes for the many, many Eventbrite clones out there.

When I organize events, I generally find publicity to be the most frustrating part. I want information about my events to spread far and wide, so it is in my interests for event calendars to make their formats easy to consume by others. Sadly, event sites want to be walled gardens, and many are downright unethical. For example, scrapes events from the Internet, and then (except for Eventbrite) does not link back to the original sources.

The problem is that centralized calendar sites all want to be the next Facebook or, which means hoarding all the users for themselves. Those business models do not lend themselves to RSS or iCal feeds. Federated sites as advocated by the FreeCodeCamp people warm the cockles of my ancient UNIX graybeard heart, but nobody wants to sysadmin servers anymore (even though a $10/month Linode would be able to serve hundreds of meetup groups at a price lower than one Meetup organizer fee).

So for now I guess I want to survive and I want people to keep organizing events on it. I still wish the world could have been different, though.