The most popular post ever from social news site Hubski gives a pretty good sense of the young site’s nascent identity crisis: “Is everyone here a refugee from reddit?” asked ickisthekiller about two months ago.
The overwhelming response? “Pretty much.”
That’s both a compliment and a source of frustration for Hubski cofounder Mark Katatowski, a four-and-a-half year Reddit user and a big fan of the social news site.
“I’d really like to do more than eat Reddit’s lunch,” Katakowski wrote in an email to the Daily Dot.
That’s because Katakowski sees Hubski as fundamentally different from its big social news cousin. Hubski’s tag line is the “thoughtful web.” Users (hubskiers) find content by following people, not topics or communities, like they do on Reddit. In fact, Hubski is kind of a marriage between Reddit, Twitter, and Tumblr.
“This is a more natural way to get information,” Katakowski wrote. “Offline, we interact primarily through people, not topics. If we find that someone is smart, interesting, or accomplished, we are going to be interested in what they find compelling, regardless of the subject matter.”
It’s a good time to reflect on what Hubski is and wants to be. Since our story last summer, the little social news site has seen some rapid growth, with user accounts expanding to 2,000—a humble milestone, but one that represents one thousand percent growth. Traffic has jumped to about 12,000 visitors a month.
That’s just a tiny fraction of Reddit’s traffic, which has similarly skyrocketed. Visitors there jumped 30 percent in October, hitting 1.8 billion page views a month and nearly 30 million uniques. It’s now one of the top 100 visited sites in the US.
Reddit has been remarkably good at absorbing this growth. Its subreddit system allows users to create and manage an infinite amount of topic-oriented sections. There’s still the fundamental issue, however: Reddit sorts content by downvotes or upvotes, meaning an item’s popularity determines how it propagates across the site.
As a community on Reddit becomes more and more popular, content often becomes more superficial. Posts rise because they’re most likely to gain upvotes; not because they necessarily add the most to discussion. That frustrates a lot of Reddit’s more hardcore user base.
On Hubski, content spreads by shares. Since shares are always public, “people are more conscientious about what they send to their followers,” Katakowski wrote. “This makes it more difficult for shallow content to spread across the community.”
That’s something Hubski’s growing userbase has noticed, too.
“This is mostly my escape from memes and reddits front page,’ hubskier SarcasmOrgasm wrote. “I come here when I want to focus on intelligent discussion and good articles. Don’t get me wrong though, Reddit is still great. You just have to find the right subreddits.”
Meanwhile, Katakowski, a brain-tumor researcher from Ann Arbor, Michigan, continues to modify the site, which he says is still very much in beta. He’s added link previews that drop down from a post with a single click. Users can also now give shouts out to one another in posts and comments, similar to “@” mentioning someone on Twitter.
“We’re not done experimenting,” Katakowski wrote.
Most importantly, Hubski no longer sorts content by popularity. Katakowski has removed the “trending” categorization scheme entirely. The only way to know what’s popular is when someone shares it with you.
Which just proves Katakowski is right: Hubski and Reddit are vastly different. One is not a replacement for the other. But as Hubski forms its own identity, it may just become the place some people wish Reddit could be—or still was.