Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia and web hosting company Wikia (now called Fandom.com), has created a new social networking platform called WT.Social. Wales created the site out of a desire to get away from the clicks- and ad-driven business models of other social media platforms. Because of this, the way WT.Social works is quite different from Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other popular sites. In this guide, we’ll cover what WT.Social is and how to use it.
Where did WT.Social come from and what is it for?
To understand what WT.Social is meant to be used for, it’s important to understand where it comes from. “WT.Social” is short for “WikiTribune Social,” and the site is essentially a rebranding and restructuring of WikiTribune, a news writing and aggregation site founded by Wales. As such, WT.Social focuses mainly on the sharing and discussion of news. Despite the “Wiki” part of the name, WT.Social is independent from Wikipedia and Wikia.
While there are plenty of ways to discuss other things, including personal matters, WT.Social frontloads its news content. When a person joins WT.Social, their account will automatically be following the “Fighting misinformation,” “Long reads,” “News about the Internet,” “Upcoming Newsworthy Events,” and “Weird News” SubWikis. We’ll explain what SubWikis are later in this guide, but the point is that WT.Social clearly wants users to be thinking about and sharing news. As the site’s “About Us” page says, WT.Social is “a social network for people like you who still have faith in the truth.”
What’s the difference between WT.Social and Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit?
WT.Social may be a place for sharing news, but you can do that on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other places already. What makes WT.Social different? We’ve broken down the main distinctions below.
Because WT.Social is news-focused, it’s not really a direct equivalent to something like Facebook. There are ways to post personal updates (we’ll get to that later), but WT.Social isn’t necessarily the place to go posting about the cute thing your kid did when you brought home a new puppy.
WT.Social is organized into “SubWikis,” which are basically like Reddit’s subreddits. Each SubWiki functions as a community meant for sharing and discussing information related to a particular topic. As mentioned above, these range from topics as broad as “Fighting misinformation” to as specific as the third-tier English football team AFC Wimbledon. While WT.Social is seemingly geared toward sharing links to news and opinion articles, there’s also space for users to write lengthier posts, ask questions, and more. On the Photography SubWiki, for example, users share photos they’ve taken.
It’s not yet known how posts within an individual SubWiki will be ranked and displayed to users. In a recent Reddit AMA, Wales said he and the WT.Social team doesn’t have a set system for ranking posts at the moment, but he said “the right way forward” is looking at things like, as one Reddit user suggested, an “alternative viewpoint sidebar” or a “quasi fairness doctrine,” perhaps giving users the option to be shown posts they disagree with but are still of a high quality. He also implied in another Reddit comment that WT.Social will focus on discussion and consensus rather than a simple, Reddit-style upvote/downvote system, which is easily “gamed.” However, as one Reddit user pointed out, there is currently no reCAPTCHA system on sign-up, and there does not appear to be any other anti-bot tools in place. The Reddit user asked Wales how WT.Social plans to combat fake accounts, but Wales did not respond.
WT.Social’s collaborative elements
As one might expect from a site created by Wales, WT.Social features several collaborative and user-run elements. This includes the ability for any user to edit the description of any SubWiki or to create any SubWiki they want. Wales said in the Reddit AMA that he believes misinformation, spamming, and hate speech will be naturally eliminated as community norms arise. As an example of the kind of misinformation WT.Social’s community could collaboratively correct, Wales said there were times where he was accused of “horrible crimes” on Twitter and had to personally email Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to get the posts taken down.
While Wales also said in the AMA that Reddit gets things wrong by giving absolute power to subreddit moderators, there do appear to be WT.Social admins who have the power to delete and merge SubWikis, delete posts, and the like. But, as user Linda Blanchard points out in the Beginner’s Guide SubWiki post “Who runs this place?,” it’s a little hard to tell who has what privileges at the moment.
WT.Social’s business model
Perhaps the biggest difference between WT.Social and other social media platforms — and ostensibly its entire reason for existing — is that it is ad-free. WT.Social is still a for-profit business, but instead of making money off advertisements, it relies on user donations to continue running. Regarding self-promotion from companies on WT.Social, even on just their own pages, Wales said he and WT.Social had yet to decide any specific policies but was “totally not okay” with a “random company posting promotional crap all over the site.”
As Wales stated in his initial Reddit AMA post, WT.Social’s donation-based business model is meant to encourage the company to cater to its users above all else. “[Y]ou’ll only pay if, in the long run, you think the site adds value to your life, to the lives of people you care about, and society in general,” Wales said. “So rather than having a need to keep you clicking above all else, I have an incentive to do something that is meaningful to you.” As of writing, donations to WT.Social can only be made through voluntary subscription payments of either $12.99 per month or $100 per year.