Why SkipIRC?

From SkipIRC

I'm often asked what SkipIRC has to offer over something like Discord. Discord is, after all, a free service with a far greater reach and userbase than SkipIRC could ever hope to have, as well as an employee count on par with our userbase. What could a little service like SkipIRC offer in comparison?

To answer that, let's look at some of the other services that the SCP Foundation community has relied on:

  • Wikidot: These days, Wikidot is barely maintained. Its staff is almost unreachable, and feature updates are nonexistent. (Even bug fixes are rare.) Wiki staff is forced to spend a great deal of time and effort working around its many issues.
  • Tumblr: When Tumblr was purchased, its new owners shortsightedly destroyed its community by imposing new rules that the bulk of its most active membership strongly disagreed with. Its active userbase shrank to a tiny fraction of what it previously was.
  • Twitter: Purchased by an extremist who laid off the bulk of its developers and is running it into the ground.
  • YouTube: YouTube has continued to provide excellent and reliable service over the years. Unfortunately, they've needed to introduce more and more advertising to pay for it. They're now introducing unskippable ads that are thirty seconds long.
  • Reddit (updated June 1): Shortly after I wrote the original version of this essay, Reddit announced changes to their public API that will force most third-party applications out of business. (They're raising the cost to developers, forbidding advertising, and banning NSFW content. For the last of these, bear in mind that "NSFW" may apply to horror, not just pornographic images.)

Most of these issues didn't come about as a result of malice or hostility. Corporations need to make money. (This can include accepting a buyout if they believe it's in the best interest of their shareholders.) Of course, as the Twitter example shows, malice is on the table as well.

SkipIRC does not have a profit motive. Providing a useful service is the goal, not the means by which ads are put in front of viewers. We don't have shareholders, and we don't have automated support systems designed to fob off user issues. Nor do we have PR flacks whose job it is to deflect inquires. Anyone can come to me with concerns, problems, suggestions, or questions, and many do. If there's an outage, there are a dozen people with my number who'll wake me up to fix it. If a disgruntled channel staff member on SkipIRC staged a takeover, it'd most likely be resolved within a few minutes. When a similar situation occurred with the SCP Wiki's Tumblr account, the only solution was a manual, laborious deletion of the account's content.

I don't know know what's going to happen to Discord in the longer term. I don't think they'll just fade away as Wikidot is currently doing; I think something like the Tumblr situation above is more likely. I don't think it's likely that they'll be able to continue with their current featureful freemium model indefinitely even if they want to. Business is business.

SkipIRC is not a business, and that's a key part of what makes it different. It's a self-hosted service beholden to no-one outside of its community. It exists for its community.