Imzy, the friendly social network launched late last year, is shutting down. CEO Dan McComas announced the news to users yesterday, saying the company couldn’t find a niche in the market. The site will become read-only on June 16th, and it will shut down completely on June 23rd. Users can export their data if they submit a form by the 16th, and an Imzy Discord server will remain active.
“We’ve loved getting to know all of you and seeing you build communities and make new friends,” wrote McComas. “Unfortunately, we were not able to find our place in the market. We still feel that the internet deserves better and hope that we see more teams take on this challenge in the future.”
Imzy was launched out of beta in October as an alternative to free-for-all (and sometimes toxic) social sites like Reddit. People needed to join groups before posting, and Imzy’s creators said that the site would be advertising-free, funding itself through a planned payment platform that also let users “tip” each other with real money. At launch, it had about 50,000 users, with a small portion using the tipping system.
Operating without ads was a risky proposition in the first place, and Imzy didn’t get the major wave of publicity that other alternative social networks — like Ello and Mastodon — enjoyed, giving them name recognition and a distinct online niche by the time the hype faded. “Imzy was too pure for this internet,” one user lamented in response to the news.
Imzy’s shutdown parallels the recent woes of social network Voat, which was essentially Imzy’s dark twin: it was founded by people who believed Reddit should be more permissive. Last week, Voat co-creator Justin Chastain warned that the site might be shutting down due to lack of funding, and it’s currently raising money from users in hopes of staying alive.
Both Imzy and Voat were arguably indirect products of the internet culture war that started with Gamergate in 2014, which meant that part of their appeal was rooted in ideology, rather than site design or a user base with specific interests. It’s possible this made them less sustainable than other niche social networks, although similarly ideological site Gab.ai has carved out space as a far-right alternative to Facebook or Twitter. On the other hand, social networks can fail for all kinds of reasons — although Imzy’s lifespan was short indeed.