2023 was tough. #
Last year was pivotal for our project, Murmel. The change of management at Twitter and the exodus of many of its users, followed by the unsustainable API price changes, made us look for a new home for our beloved service. For an application that pretty much lives on top of a social media platform, moving away meant potentially parting with all the customers we had served over the two years until then.
When I began working on Murmel in 2021, it was not a small part to scratch my own itch. One of my favorite services- Nuzzel (later replaced by Twitter’s Blue’s Top Articles), had recently shut down. Nuzzel was crucial for me - I quickly get drawn to Internet rabbit holes and could spend countless hours digging on social media - a worldwide phenomenon now known as doomscrolling. I thought if I could find enough reasons to keep myself up-to-date without actively spending time on social media, others may find it helpful, too. We could keep the site running for a small monthly price and perhaps even cover some of the coffees I drank while building it. Two weeks later, the first version of Murmel made it to the public.
Little did I know, the site would go on to become a refuge for so many looking to reduce their time scrolling around. But not just that - we saw an influx of people interested in using Murmel in their work - journalists, researchers, freelance writers, business people. While the bulk of my income in those two years came from client work, I was happy to have contributed something valuable to the broader community.
Then, 2023 brought all sorts of challenges - from the aforementioned Twitter exodus to having to reduce our capacity for working on the site to a few hours a month. I literally switched jobs, joining a great local Munich company for a few months.
Despite the hurdles, our migration to Mastodon was more than successful and, in retrospect, the right thing to do. Not everyone, but a few of our loyal customers moved over with us - something I will forever be thankful for. Moreover, people’s reception on Mastodon turned out to be warmer than I anticipated. I feared mixing the terms “open web” and “paid subscription model” would outrage the community, but the reaction was positive. That motivated us to keep going.
Looking forward to 2024. #
In late December and early January, we made two minor improvements, hoping to make it even easier for people to come and try it. Unlike Twitter, the Fediverse is not just a single endpoint you communicate with but a whole universe of servers. Some, like mastodon.social and mastodon.world are fairly large. Others consist of tens, or often, individual people only. Our initial decision to start by allowing only the top 10 largest Mastodon instances wasn’t the best. We got multiple email requests from people asking us to include their single-user instances. It became clear to us that someone who has gone the extra mile of setting up their own Mastodon instance and then emailing us about it is someone we would definitely want to have on our side. We rolled our sleeves, and one day before the end of 2023, we removed whitelisting - anyone can now come to Murmel and sign up with their instance address. We will simply add it if we do not have it on our list.
The other change we made was allowing everyone to try Murmel free for 30 days before hitting the Stripe paywall screen. We have always allowed people to try the service for free during the first 30 days. The difference was that we asked them for their payment details up-front and would only charge them once the 30-day trial period was over. Not anymore.
With these two tiny additions and more in our backlog, we are entering 2024 pretty optimistic about its future.
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People keep asking me why I invest time and efforts in building Murmel if Twitter has already created its solution.
Murmel is seeking a new home on the Fediverse. Our Mastodon beta is now live and ready to try.
I usually avoid running direct promos on this blog, but this one involves my product Murmel, so I hope you’ll forgive me.