8 years of Write.as
Today I’m excited, and pleased, to celebrate eight years on the web! As is now tradition, we’re marking the moment with a little recap of the year below, and a special sale on our 5-year subscription and iOS app — read all about that on our Deals newsletter.
The journey to where we are today has definitely been a wandering one. When I started building Write.as in 2015, I had a very simple idea in mind: I wanted to publish an essay on the web without signing up, and I wanted it to look nice. That was really it — I didn’t have “blogging” or “newsletters” in mind, just writing.
At that time, I also saw problems elsewhere on the web that I wanted to fix with this brand new tool. I had privacy on my mind — how writing your deepest thoughts can be so intimate, and how you can’t really be anonymous when every social platform stalks you just to show you ads. I knew that privacy and anonymity had to be the foundation for this new tool.
I was also thinking about all the places I’d hung out online since I was young, and how many of them had disappeared over the years — often sold off and shut down, or ignored for more profitable ventures. I knew again that the dominant business model, and the profit motive generally, had left the world with so many disposable digital spaces.
Yet these platforms have always been the cafés we gathered at online — the places that enable us to actually hang out on the web. But usually, we all get to use and enjoy them for a while, and then suddenly have to find a substitute when management changes, or the money dries up. I knew this concern would be existential for our young platform — if I ever turned it into a business, we had to either remain fully independent and customer-funded, or not operate at all.
Thankfully we’ve been able to reach sustainability — and keep it on our own terms.
As mentioned in last year’s recap, we became profitable after six years online (and about five years in business). We’re still funded entirely by our customers — not outside investors or advertisers — and still run by the same person that first created this tool, platform, and space for your words (me, Matt).
This year brought some changes for us, as well as slow and steady growth. I took work a little easier while I settled into a new city, and re-established ourselves as Musing Studio. We closed new free accounts to make it easier for me to personally manage, and launched Remark.as, a social space built around your blog here.
In March, we felt a major shift after our entire platform was blocked in China, and then launched writeas.xyz (and the accompanying anti-censorship writeas.guide) so users there could continue writing and reading here without a VPN.
Now, we host over 460,000 blogs and 3.8 million posts — up from 360,000 blogs and 3 million posts last year. We see over 1 million page views every day across the platform. And outside of Write.as, tons of new, independently-run WriteFreely communities continue sprouting up.
Today, as the grounds shift around us online, while companies are sadly scaling back and platforms like Twitter are selling themselves off to billionaires, I’m even more focused on building tools that help grow the ecosystems we’re a part of, like the fediverse and the open web more broadly.
I still stand by the ideals I set back in 2015 — that the world needs more sustainable, long-lived spaces where we can create and socialize online; that we need tools built on a foundation of privacy, instead of surveillance; that we should build protocols, not platforms, as @firstname.lastname@example.org wrote about in 2019.
More than anything, I see this as a moment to expand our idea of what the “social web” means. It no longer has to be one platform owned by one person. It doesn’t have to be individual social networks that are isolated from each other. It can be personal blogs and sites of all stripes. It can be a space run by a company or your community. It can be motivated simply by human needs, instead of profit.
So looking ahead, I plan to spend our eighth year focusing more on WriteFreely, the open source software that powers Write.as. I want to make sure everyone can easily share their writing online, while also having a choice in who hosts that writing space. As one tool develops, the other will too — and I’m looking forward to seeing what kinds of new stories and connections it’ll enable.
To everyone who has contributed in some way over these last eight years, whether as an involved community member, a paying customer, or a quiet writer, I truly appreciate it. This project has managed to grow into something more useful than I ever could’ve imagined when I first started it. I’m thankful that all the support we’ve received over the years means I can keep doing it for many more to come.
Have any thoughts? Discuss... on Remark.as