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✍️ Introducing our Digital Spaces Directory
Explore 200+ social products: Acter to Yubo and everything in between
We are seeking a Chief of Staff to work closely with the New_ Public Co-Directors across a variety of critical projects and external relationships.
Our Community Stewards Guild member Lennon Flowers needs your help fundraising for The Dinner Party Labs, a space for those experiencing grief to find community toward healing since 2014.
For a while now we’ve been hearing from folks looking for a robust digital resource that takes stock of the growing landscape of digital public spaces. After starting with an earnest petition, we’re now proud to be part of a movement, with scores of designers, developers, and funders all rushing to build social spaces on the internet that don’t just work better, but thrive.
Some of these folks are building what we’ve been calling for in the Civic Signals — spaces that welcome and connect while enabling us to understand and act. Nearly every day we meet new people excited by the possibilities of prosocial digital public spaces.
This week: the debut of our new Digital Spaces Directory and some examples of note
Earlier this year, as part of our Community by Design program, we asked you to submit examples of a digital space, feature, or practice that embodies your hope for the future of the internet. For the last few months Head of Product Partnerships Sam Liebeskind, Product Partnerships Fellow Jasmine Mangat, and Research Fellow Serena Chao have been working with All Tech Is Human’s Researcher Iris Vold and Director of Strategy Dr. Karina Alexanyan to create a database with the most interesting spaces and pieces of infrastructure we've discovered in the wider ecosystem of digital social products.
The resulting Directory is one of the largest resources of this sort to date, with over 200 spaces and products. Anyone can search, sort, or filter by a variety of categories, including business model, entity type, stage of maturity, interaction format, and Civic Signals that apply. We hope this serves as a valuable complement to other excellent resources including the Civic Tech Field Guide, Hugo Amsellem's Loneliness Economy startups database, the Prosocial Design Networks’ interventions library, and An Illustrated Field Guide to Social Media.
Our goals for this resource
The ultimate aim is to create a comprehensive overview of digital social spaces that are taking steps towards a flourishing, prosocial future online. We want this to be something that will inspire alternative approaches to building digital gathering places. However, it’s worth noting that a product appearing in this list is not an endorsement or a declaration that it is perfect, or even that all of the dynamics in the product are “healthy.” This is instead a starting point for discovery, research, and inquiry.
This is just the beginning. In the future, we hope to expand this Directory to include many more products, with far more information about each. We’re also interested in exploring the specific features of these products more in depth, including which tools and design patterns lead to healthy, prosocial outcomes. And we’re interested in researching the wide array of community practices — norms and stewardship techniques that flourishing communities use to achieve specific outcomes.
Get in touch: If you find this helpful, we’d love to hear from you with a comment below! If there’s a product that you think should be listed but isn’t yet, let us know here. And if you have any ideas on how we might make this better in the future, please use this form. For press requests, please follow up via email.
Below, Sam will take you through a small sampling of the kinds of spaces and products included in the Directory.
—Josh, New_ Public Head of Editorial
A digital spaces amuse-bouche
While the big, ad-based, for-profit social products tend to dominate headlines and attention, there’s a whole world of organizations that are trying to build differently. Some are new and others have been around for a while now. Here are a few products in the Directory that I’m watching closely…
🗯️ PubHubs A new/beta local-groups-focused social network based in the Netherlands that prioritizes transparency and data-protection. Instead of hyper-scale, profit-driven motivations, it’s a non-profit that comes from the world of academia and is actively building a metacommunity to develop a proper governance approach for the project overall.
🔥 Bonfire An experimental, open-source, federated platform that’s aiming to give community stewards the ability to customize and control digital spaces of their own, without having to start entirely from scratch — sort of like Wordpress for federated social networks. It operates as a non-profit and was originally funded via a grant from NLNet.
⛹🏼♀️ Diem Self-described as a “social search engine”, Diem is a “dedicated place for people to search, collect, discover and share information, inspired by the way women have been passing knowledge to each other for centuries.” While it is a for-profit company and still in early beta, they’re doing a bunch of interesting things around data privacy and using AI to help close what they describe as “the gender information gap”.
👥 Cohost An indie, non-profit, Tumblr-like forum by a group called the Anti Software Software Club. It makes money via donations & users paying, and in the future has plans to allow users to accept tips and/or sell subscriptions to their content (with the platform presumably taking a percentage of those transactions) — no ads or tracking.
🗣️ Discourse Discourse has been around since 2013 and remains one of the most powerful, flexible ways for community stewards to create their own forum-style digital spaces. It’s a for-profit company, but the product is open-source (they make money by providing hosting and other services for people who want an extra hand).
—Sam, New_ Public Head of Product Partnerships
For more on these and 195+ others, check out the full Directory!
Before you go: I wanted to recommend Ben Whitelaw’s podcast Everything in Moderation. It’s “your guide to the policies, products, platforms and people shaping the future of online speech and the internet.”
Savoring the Snoop-enaissance,