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Author Topic: Cohost & its recent shadiness  (Read 1152 times)
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« on: August 15, 2023 @25.03 »

Heya, I know that some people on here like and use Cohost as they have positioned them as a queer co-op social media alternative, there is even a way to link it on the forums, so I thought it was kind of relevant to all of us here.

There was a really informative thread on Mastodon recently about Cohost and the shady stuff that has come out of it recently, if you want to read it yourself go ahead:
https://hackers.town/@lori/110656825941689147

Neatly summarized...
  • Not paying back loans, not breaking even, no financial plan while giving themselves raises.
  • Not implementing any viable monetization to fix the above, but instead playing around with the code and serving their own whims.
  • Allowed harassment and stalking done by relatives and partners of the admins, plus allowing a neo-nazi stalker to harass a Jewish user, then victim blaming the latter.
  • Stalled and changed their minds multiple times on some... certain sensitive content moderation issues and perhaps lied about getting industry advice, to cater to their partners' and friends'... related content likes.
  • Pretends to be a "non-profit queer-run leftist co-op" while not being any of that at all, instead being a for-profit LLC led by random former Big Tech employees.
  • Guilt-tripping and building parasocial relationships as administrators, oversharing their personal and sexual lives as staff and bringing personal issues on official accounts.

This may not be interesting in and of itself, but as part of the bigger picture: another non-federated, non-free, non-self-hostable social media site with lofty aspirations that may perhaps have found its downfall here.
It might as well beg the question again whether being anti-capitalist, self-hostable and free and open source might be a prerequisite for proper social media replacements; something that we have discussed on here and on other sites often and at great lengths.

The age-old question whether the web revival and the social media replacement movements (which are tightly related) must be explicitly anti-capitalist or not is obviously relevant here too, given that these problems are almost all related to centralization and being a profit-based business; no matter how strongly worded the manifesto or how much someone calls themselves a queer progressive project. I have seen many a great social media replacement (Crabber, SpaceHey, now Cohost) to be headed by a centralized intransparent leader or tightly knit nepotist group of people, and it looks like that just does not work for long.

Either way, an interesting development for the web revival at large, I feel. Given that we also discussed the downfall of Yesterweb, I feel like this is a valid thread to have, if only as a PSA. As it is likely less "dramatic" than Yesterweb's exit was itself, I trust it's going to be alright for this forum.
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« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2023 @69.91 »

I will note; I don't actually know much about co-host; it never caught my eye - but someone did request the ability to link it on profiles - If I made a mistake adding that we can remove it again  :omg:

I'm not sure there is a way out of this one; Neocities itself is centralised with an in-transparent leader; so is this forum  :tongue: Even platforms like Mastodon might be hosted on de-centralised servers, but the technical and aesthetic design of it is very much centralised with its developer (and aesthetic design is as powerful as moderation and data ownership)!

What connects all these projects? Effort! They are all a horrific amount of effort. Even for a small project like a personal site; once you put in effort to a project, do you not have the right to run that project as you see fit? Regardless of how other people judge it. Thats our whole deal; we tell people to run their own personal sites how they want - but when you scale it up to something like social media - errr does it still apply; when does a project leave the hands of its creator(s)?

One way out is to say that everyone should be held accountable for their behaviour; but by who? Who gets to decide whats right or wrong? Corporations would argue that profit is always right; governments would argue that the law is right; the mob on twitter would argue that what ever they feel like at that moment is right - but we know they are all flawed to some extent.

So what can an individual do! You can vote with your wallet (or on most social media sites, your attention) - but chances are there wont be enough of you to make a real dent that way (just look at the reddit protests) - its a boom bust cycle over and over!

I don't have a good answer for you - but there is a little popup on this forum that says "Art will save the world" - I put that there for exactly this reason; I don't believe theres a technical way out, or a moderation way, or an economic way out, or a political way out :ohdear: Art is the embracing of messy but honest moments of humanity; I don't think you can do that without compassion and a certain degree of love for humanity and an acceptance of your own fragility. If we can create a web that feels like that; then just maybe, MAYBE it will end this roller coaster.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2023 @72.14 by Melooon » Logged


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« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2023 @214.25 »

I always thought the site was sketchy after that whole "flip flopping on whether or not to ban something" ordeal. The flip flopping, the situation that Fábio Fontes had to deal with, and what I've just found out from the thread just seals it.

https://mastodon.gamedev.place/@fontes/110842334017707521
https://web.archive.org/web/20230806092806/https://cohost.org/FabioFontes/post/2383623-cohost-in-violation

Around early July Fábio requested for the site's staff to delete his account. Since he's (presumably since he mentions GDPR) European they have to follow GDPR and once someone requests to have their account deleted they have to do that within the month. (and if they don't they have to update on the matter ASAP) Instead what he got was an automated email asking him to make a separate account to handle customer support.  :drat:

Thankfully his account finally got deleted 5 days ago.



IDK what else to add to this but recently I've seen people fall for FOMO and join new sites regardless of whether or not it's a good idea or if it's "for them" and I just feel bad. :notgood: 
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« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2023 @612.64 »

I have an account on Cohost. I asked that it be deleted after learning that its management allowed content that wasn't necessarily legal in the US because Cohost didn't have a "delete account" feature, but all they did was set my account to read-only and blow me off. They're a bunch of no-talent assclowns.
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« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2023 @614.27 »

because Cohost didn't have a "delete account" feature, but all they did was set my account to read-only and blow me off.
I wonder how they handle GDPR requests. In Europe, that kind of practice is illegal.
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« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2023 @625.64 »

I wonder how they handle GDPR requests. In Europe, that kind of practice is illegal.

Probably with a "We're Americans operating out of the US and we don't answer to the EU" email, if they'd reply to a GDPR enforcement notice at all.
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« Reply #6 on: August 15, 2023 @634.91 »

I never bothered with the site. I saw a long, bitter rant about how Cohost was better than Mastodon. It was written by one of the staff members on the site if I recall correctly. I vaguely remember it being against decentralisation for frivolous reasons while insisting that centralisation is better. I knew where things were going from there.

It might as well beg the question again whether being anti-capitalist, self-hostable and free and open source might be a prerequisite for proper social media replacements; something that we have discussed on here and on other sites often and at great lengths.

For something to completely replace a popular social media site―not to act as a personal alternative―it has to be sustainable with a large userbase. Which either means a lot of money, or decentralisation. I don't think it would be completely impossible, theoretically, for a non anti-capitalist alternative to work (possibly something along the lines of Wikipedia or Archive.org's management), but the chances of that would be incredibly low, and there would always be major issues and risks long term.

Aside from that, I would say that self-hostable is the bare minimum if we're to look back at the 2000s and VBulletin. FLOSS is important for the security benefits. As for anti-capitalist...

The age-old question whether the web revival and the social media replacement movements (which are tightly related) must be explicitly anti-capitalist or not is obviously relevant here too, given that these problems are almost all related to centralization and being a profit-based business; no matter how strongly worded the manifesto or how much someone calls themselves a queer progressive project.

I would say anti-corporate for the web revival. Supporting niche, small scale sites―that are not intended to grow large―helps with the movement as a whole.

As for social media replacement movements, this is harder to answer. It also depends on what the goals of these movements are. If the movement is strictly anti-capitalist, then it's more limited in scope―the appeal to many for social media involves money and corporations. But on the other hand, not being anti-capitalist, or at the very least anti-corporate, leaves wriggle room for serious issues. Mastodon's largest server and the project itself has opened itself up to manipulation with the Threads fiasco.

I have seen many a great social media replacement (Crabber, SpaceHey, now Cohost) to be headed by a centralized intransparent leader or tightly knit nepotist group of people, and it looks like that just does not work for long.

What happened to SpaceHey?

I'm not sure there is a way out of this one; Neocities itself is centralised with an in-transparent leader; so is this forum  :tongue:

/home/user/ was explicitly talking about social media replacements and generalised alternatives, if I'm not mistaken.

That said, Neocities being centralised is a problem. The site has been having many issues this year. It's not sustainable long term with its growth and the server load. The server costs can't be cheap. If the owner isn't making enough with the paid plan, they will eventually have to sell the site, exploit it for profit, or shut it down just like Geocities before it. The one thing that Neocities has over other large sites, is that one owns all one's content. One can easily export it and move to another host.

Melonland is fine since it's a personal project. It's not intended to replace any other site.

Even platforms like Mastodon might be hosted on de-centralised servers, but the technical and aesthetic design of it is very much centralised with its developer (and aesthetic design is as powerful as moderation and data ownership)!

I partly agree. The design choices influence how people interact with the site, and Mastodon having too much influence can effect other ActivityPub projects. However, there are many other projects out there with ActivityPub support, and personal clients exist. It still has its advantages, since the main issue with centralisation is that it's too inefficient money wise to host the infrastructure without investors or selling data.

So what can an individual do! You can vote with your wallet (or on most social media sites, your attention) - but chances are there wont be enough of you to make a real dent that way (just look at the reddit protests) - its a boom bust cycle over and over!

If the Reddit protests were in vain, so were the Tumblr, Digg, and Livejournal protests. Those sites are all still around. These things take time. And even then, the alternatives have seen a big boost in popularity with more developers working on the federated alternatives. Now that people know about the alternatives, they can continue to grow with more people migrating the next time something happens.

It's important to note that the site buckled down against the protesters, and forced subreddits to reopen. Deleted posts were forcibly reverted.
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« Reply #7 on: August 15, 2023 @643.24 »

What happened to SpaceHey?
Nothing catastrophic, but it is headed by one single guy out of his own pocket who refused to take moderation volunteers when the site was swamped in spam and off-topic content in the wrong forum categories and all.
It's not bad or problematic or anything, it's just not particularly well-run.
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« Reply #8 on: August 15, 2023 @647.92 »

It's not bad or problematic or anything, it's just not particularly well-run.

I disagree. I'd say that a poorly-run website is problematic because the next time the site gets swamped it might not be by spam and off-topic content. The next time it might be Nazis.
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« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2023 @665.61 »

Dude, what's with all the new social media websites dramas, I leave them for a while and then I find out they're involved in some weird stuff.

First there was that Deviant art like website, I can't remember it's name (it was definitely connected to bees/beehives/honey or something and had a hexagon as a logo) where the admin apparently had some weird connections to NFTs and some coworker abuse(?) (not sure about the latter tho!)

Then I learn mastodon.art had some weird admin drama which I still don't understand fully (apparently current admin has some weird opinions or something?) and now cohost (which thankfully I didn't that much if not at all)
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« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2023 @697.05 »

Dropping by for a little because I have found some time :4u:

I find the criticism interesting and partially valid. I am a Cohost user since recently.
Though I also wanna offer a different perspective one might have on alternative social media sites, or on Cohost specifically.

While I enjoy supporting things that directly speak to my values and may be radical, new, and anti-capitalist, I think we should also not forget that many people just join social media sites because theyre "not x"; not Twitter, not Tumblr, not Instagram, etc. and bring something new to the table. It sucks that they are not this utopian vision of an online collective or hoster, but nowadays, simply not being Twitter, and being smaller, can be enough for many. That should not be underestimated. Many are content with that already, or are aware that any standards above that are highly unlikely to be fulfilled by now.

I'm also sad that I oftentimes see alternative sites being held to very high standards that are almost impossible to fulfill with small funding, as a small team, as a side project or whatever it may be (depends on the site; Cohost and SpaceHey can be very different in that regard, for example). We are all very used to very rich social media sites, so I get it, but they also have huge legal teams, millions in money, a ton of employees, and are not bound by the morals that smaller alternatives often bind themselves to. That's why bigger sites have better moderation; they have no qualms about traumatizing poor people in developing countries to remove content or train AI to deal with it. They have no qualms about stepping on peoples feet and just autoban stuff with no feedback, no recourse, without asking the community beforehand; they get away with not banning stuff or banning stuff, taking away peoples livelihoods, launching features no one wanted and taking ones away that people liked basically daily and people barely bat an eye anymore.
Meanwhile smaller alternatives must feel like if they make one small misstep with being too overbearing in regards to moderation or not enough, if they position themselves clearly about xyz, they suddenly have 50% less users. This is simply not a reality for the giants anymore.
In regards to not banning someone for harassment that happened elsewhere: Not even the giants ban for off-site content /ever/. I have tried to take Podcasts down from Spotify and tried to take down Patreons for hateful Tweets, nothing. FB and Insta and all those act the same, you cannot even report anything outside of their apps or websites within the report feature. If a user did not do the bannable offense on the platform, there is no precedent anywhere of taking action against the user.

There is no easy solution, I get it; people are allowed to expect things from a company even if it is small, especially if they pay money for it, but I find it very unfortunate nonetheless. They are fighting against giants who had a decade+ to figure it all out and are way past their growing pains. I personally am fine with growing pains on a small alternative site, and I wish more people would be, but I understand if they aren't.

What saddens me the most though is that the mastodon thread mentions:

Quote
The staff will routinely talk about how they didn't get features shipped because they were sick, depressed, have ADHD, whatever. They feel the need to announce who is or isn't in the office every week. They frequently refer to themselves as the users friends. They have no division between their personal and public pages. They've gotten mad at users for reporting things too much on the weekends and frequently, frequently remind users they aren't working on the weekends or holidays or after hours and more or less imply you should leave them alone. They post about how much people being negative about the site (even if it's just pointing out a bug or disliking a UI element) makes them feel like failures.
Quote
They are far too personal about what they post and they explicitly want people to see them as friends, going so far as to saying you need to trust that they're doing things in good faith because they're your friends. Your users don't need to hear about which members of staff are in a polycule together. Your users don't need to hear that bug reports make you feel like a failure.

I personally love all of that and I want them to continue that, and I want more of this. Everywhere.

I am tired of corporate professionalism. I am tired of saving face. I am tired of everyone pretending they are fine, and like that criticism or even customer hate mail didn't hurt, or wasn't disappointing. I'm tired of people pretending they aren't chronically ill, disabled, mentally ill, still grieving a death, in period pain and other stuff. It's messed up for me that cashiers, waiters, and all kinds of people in the daily life can't be open and honest about what day they're having when it is relevant because it would be unprofessional towards me as a customer. I am tired of having to see them as replaceable, characterless, public-safe stand-ins for the brand that always function!
I am tired of having to participate in a culture that does this and engage in playpretend. I hate having to act as if I am productive 100% of the time when I have a week or two where I can't focus much at all. I am tired of pretending the work is interesting all the time. Most people are tired of pretending their job is their passion, and for good reason.

I want to interact with humans, and I want to engage with things made by humans. And humans are like that. And I wanna know how the people whose stuff I use, whose posts I see, whose platform I use really feel if they do decide to share it. And the good part is, when many people around you do this, you start feeling like less of a loser for not being productive that day, that week, that month; because the people around you you admire for all their projects have this too. The public persona who never fails and never gets upset harms us all, because that's who we compare ourselves to and we always fall short. I'm glad the Cohost creators struggle with the same stuff we all do. Makes me feel like less of a freak. Anything else is a view warped by capitalist interests.

Quote
Posting that you are worried about paying your rent or mortgage because of the sites financial situation to your userbase, leading to people posting that they can barely afford their own groceries but they'll give you $5 that won't come near helping the $40k deficit, while you post about trips you're going on or furry conventions you'll be at, is vile to me, whether you're trying to be manipulative or not.

This is also a common capitalist talking point. Many people have written about it better than me, but this is derived from ideas like "poor people would stop being poor if they learned how to save/invest/wouldn't spend it on trivial things" and the entitlement of many people who are above poverty thinking they know how to spend funds better than people who are financially struggling, as well as the idea that poor people do not deserve entertainment (aka when people complain that a poor person still has an Xbox). Now, these aren't poor people but a financially struggling business, but the point is similar - employees, even of a startup struggling financially, deserve a liveable wage, and they deserve entertainment, and they deserve to spend their wages without scrutiny. Giving a platform money via a subscription or donation is very obviously not only going to the site directly, because there are humans that need to be paid. I find this view of "they should live barely above the poverty line and not have any enjoyment so they can put as much as possible into the business" by the OP to be wildly dehumanizing and capitalist. I don't want anyone to suffer financially or otherwise for my frivolous entertainment (or at all), and that is what a social media site is.

Something I also don't appreciate is that more or less, it is worded like or strongly implied that the Cohost team is not paying back loans that they have to, and that they somehow scammed their rich friend with this whole thing. Do we know what their agreement looks like? Maybe they don't have to pay it back yet, or conditions have changed. I wouldn't wanna judge that as an outsider. Not to mention that, regardless of if they're friends or not, that rich friend is a venture capitalist - if they weren't before, they are now, by investing in this startup like this. Venture capitalists and investors in general make risky business decisions like that all the time. Many of their investments do not work out. I think too much of the criticism acts as if this friend is somewhat of a victim, when this is based on assumptions and also obfuscates the actual power dynamic between investors and the companies and projects they invest in.

Also, it pretty much ends with the usual Twitter-esque snarky summary tone that a character limit imposes. Sadly.

Edit: It might seem cherrypicked because I only wrote about the stuff I disagree with, but I agree with other criticisms not mentioned here (especially GDPR and account deletion. After all I was the cause for the repeated forum GDPR banner :grin:)
« Last Edit: August 15, 2023 @732.75 by shevek » Logged

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« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2023 @742.19 »

Dude, what's with all the new social media websites dramas, I leave them for a while and then I find out they're involved in some weird stuff.

First there was that Deviant art like website, I can't remember it's name (it was definitely connected to bees/beehives/honey or something and had a hexagon as a logo) where the admin apparently had some weird connections to NFTs and some coworker abuse(?) (not sure about the latter tho!)

Then I learn mastodon.art had some weird admin drama which I still don't understand fully (apparently current admin has some weird opinions or something?) and now cohost (which thankfully I didn't that much if not at all)

The site you're talking about is buzzly there is a ton of shit that went down. The only 2 coders/devs were RedArcanine/PokeMutt and Chris and the rest of the staff did community stuff.
Warning this is long it's under a spoiler for a reason. (also it may be out of order I'm sorry for that.)  :drat:

Spoiler
  • Chris releases a poorly worded and manipulative community poll that's super important and would effect the site.
  • The rest of the staff before this released told Chris how this wasn't a good poll and even made one that would be comprehensible. Despite this Chris still releases the crappy poll against the rest of the staff's wishes. https://archive.li/onozm
  • The poll in question: https://web.archive.org/web/20220324215750/https://twitter.com/buzzlyarts/status/1503511357383077889
  • Everyone obviously either can't understand what it's asking, realizes how manipulative it is, or is able to finish the poll. Some people couldn't even finish the poll due to how badly worded and manipulative it was.
  • The poll was 37 questions long and some people only got up to question 3 before dipping out.
  • People found out that you had to go through paypal in order to unsubscribe from their subscription service.
  • Chris started acting super unprofessional.
  • People found out that Chris was an art thief. (Recently I remembered that the images he stole were from a subreddit and not from an image site like unsplash. So I sorta get why people thought he was a thief.) https://archive.li/yWutV
  • Chris went nuts and started banning people for no reason.
  • The devs start going rogue and remove the rest of the staff. (by taking away mod privileges)
  • Chris starts calling people outraged by his behavior "unhealthy." https://archive.li/ZBgRq
  • Due to mass lag from the site because all the users were spamming tickets, mass deleting, posting, commenting, and attempting to delete their accounts, it was impossible to delete your art. The work around to this was to edit the art you had to something else. Sometimes there were moments like 30 mins or and an hour at most where you could delete posts. But those were far in between.
  • Some people couldn't even get their accounts deleted because they needed to email the staff to do so. Which violated GDPR. (apparently they fixed that now but it should've been the first thing availible. There's no excuse.)
  • A buzzly staff member shares their experience during the event: https://docs.google.com/document/d/10LTUMEJ_iWpzLlAOMXgPOhVLFflVzmD5YkmZSwqGSsM/edit
  • Pokemutt gets removed from the staff list but isn't actually removed from staff.
  • Nym's (a staff member) buzzly account gets deleted for sharing the google doc. https://web.archive.org/web/20220324215721/https://twitter.com/nymlyz/status/1505058855788683268
  • PokeMutt/RedArcanine gets outed for dating a 16 year old while he was in his 20s. While the minor stated that they lied about being 16 and was actually 13, PokeMutt was still aware that the minor was underage.
  • Chris starts deleting accounts that vote options that he doesn't like. https://web.archive.org/web/20220319162221/https://twitter.com/BuzzlyArt/status/1505044885497335822
  • One account that Chris deleted is taken over and used as a dev account and turns out Chris can change the "joined" date to whatever he wants. https://web.archive.org/web/20220721102324/https://twitter.com/ArtisticRoy/status/1507891058394472451
  • This is anecdotal but Chris also deleted accounts that commented on him negatively. I called him unproffessional 2 weeks after he didn't delete my account and then my account got deleted 5 minutes after I commented.
  • This is also anecdotal but PokeMutt worked on another art site before this called "artrise" and ripped off the build they were using and used said build on buzzly.
[close]

This mostly sharing context behind the stuff but I forgot to mention, yes Chris is into NFTs and even asked the community if they wanted that implemented to the site. (Thankfully everyone was like "no don't do that" this was before the community poll happened.)
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« Reply #12 on: August 16, 2023 @61.03 »

This is really sad. I feel like a big part of this story is yet another group getting starry-eyed and overpromising on what they can do, and being held to unrealistically high standards. It happens all the time, and I can understand how people make that mistake. Maybe they've just taken on too much too soon.

The fiascos about not banning certain content and not being complacent with GDPR are extremely concerning, however. They really should have had clear policies and procedures on those things from the get-go, as they are extremely important and basic issues, and they have serious legal reperccussions. The fact that these problems weren't anticipated is a huge red flag and doesn't bode well for how the website might handle other issues in the future. I wouldn't feel comfortable using it anymore.
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« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2023 @631.23 »

I think the biggest problem with Cohost is that it only exists just to be a competitor against big companies. This whole thing about being anti-capitalist took the focus away from actually making an enjoyable experience for it's users. And even then, it's just a twitter clone, nothing innovative or new or interesting that would make it worthwhile to switch over. Also, I think a lot of these types of sites take their goals a bit too seriously, and also try to be something for everybody when they aren't. It's why sites like Yesterweb have kinda fell off. If anybody wants to make any kind of freely expressive web revival type site, I think they should emphasize what their site can do for people, rather than any humongous goal first and foremost. Take small steps first, dont bite off more than you can chew.
I personally love all of that and I want them to continue that, and I want more of this. Everywhere.

I am tired of corporate professionalism. I am tired of saving face. I am tired of everyone pretending they are fine, and like that criticism or even customer hate mail didn't hurt, or wasn't disappointing. I'm tired of people pretending they aren't chronically ill, disabled, mentally ill, still grieving a death, in period pain and other stuff.
Honestly, I'm inclined to disagree. Theres nothing wrong with having fun for yourself, feeling awful somedays or hating that corporate stuff, I'm all for that. But what the owners of cohost are doing is really haughty. I've been in a lot of furry-based communities and this kind of constant venting and para-social behavior really starts to affect you after a while. I got so sick of it. If theres anything I wouldn't want on a twitter clone, its everything appalling that twitter has.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2023 @720.81 by DiffydaDude » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2023 @776.33 »

[...]And even then, it's just a twitter clone, nothing innovative or new or interesting that would make it worthwhile to switch over.

What about it would you say makes it a Twitter clone? I don't have a horse in this race, but I thought Cohost was more of an alternative to Tumblr. I did think the removal of visible (as far as I could tell) likes/reblogs/etc was a neat gimmick, at least, and I liked the emphasis on comments.
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