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Remembering Bubblews and Similar Others

Thinking back to 2014 I remember this exciting website that hit the scene called Bubblews. The theme was atrocious and the type of writing was mostly inane, yet the video game atmosphere and hopes of making cash drew many people into its playful bubble.

It didn’t take me long to catch on to the most exciting money-making endeavor for online writers, although it did seem like I was late to the party considering how rapidly everyone moved up in social status with every view, star (like), and comment being compensated for payment through PayPal.

Bubblews originally hit the scene in beta mode in 2012, which is why I probably felt a bit late coming to the scene in late 2014. They didn’t officially launch until July 16, 2014, according to Business Wire. The founders were 26-year-olds Arvind Dixit and Jason Zuccari who moved to San Francisco to launch the grand idea.

To be fair, this was during an early time with internet adoption, only a couple of years after smartphones became ubiquitous in America. While their UX/UI was amateurish looking, it was friendly enough for millions of people to ride the bubble. For instance, at the time of their start, they had 20 million monthly visitors from over 240 countries.

All content creators had to do was write at least 400 characters (not words) per bubble and stick to their terms of service, which was similar to most writing platforms. Then after their pennies added up, they could cash out at $50 with PayPal.

I remember there were people from all around the world participating with Bubblews; a Yahoo News article (from the day of lift-off) said most of the activity on the site was from the US, Canada, Britain, Brazil, India, and the Philippines. In some of those countries, making $50 writing about whatever and whenever was better than most jobs!

The altruistic aspect of the site might have been lost in the penny-gobbling frenzy, or just not known to most users, including myself, but the founders had the vision to reward users for their social media interaction, rather than not pay them and just mine their data as other major social media sites do. This was a newer concept back then that unfortunately didn’t work too well.

The Business Wire article explained they did plan to monetize the site and take information from the posts themselves to sort of mine the personalities of the users. It was all good as long as they kept the pennies rolling.

That brings me to shortly after I started “working” for the bustling new writing site, the decline and fall of the promising concept. I don’t remember making a payout before they stopped paying; essentially, I wrote many bubbles to reach the threshold to only get stiffed in the end. A small tragedy in my online writing career.

Even more than being stiffed was the sudden end to making Bubblews part of my daily work routine (one less egg in the basket). Writing bubbles was easy and fun as the pennies came rolling in and the mostly insincere interactions were pandered to carefully. I think back and wonder, what kind of gibberish did I write on this site — it may be a good thing for everyone it shut down. Humor aside, there were some refined writers there, it is all about context and perspective.

Reading a review on HubPages from a disappointed Bubblews writer, we learn the site “died” around mid-November 2015. Like most deaths, it was more painful than anyone would have liked, thousands of users being stiffed like me went forth to tell their woeful tales of being ripped off from the massive bubble bust.

Really, from the beginning of the formal founding, everyone wondered when and if it the bubble would burst; we would ponder, Is this place really paying us for this? and How long will it continue?

Sad, but true, we all knew it was coming. The business model wasn’t sustainable, the vision was not sure, and the pennies ran out as the writers wrote like there was no tomorrow, about nearly every moment of their existence. It was like Facebook with people posting their breakfast, birthday parties, children playing, and dogs barking, yet we were making money for it — just imagine the excitement this caused.

I remember a few similar sites from back in that time; these didn’t blow up as big but did have their heyday. I’m thinking of Teckler, Daily Two Cents, RedGage, MyLot, and ChatAbout.

Now I did make money from Daily Two Cents ($30 or so), which is still online and around the 4 million Alexa world ranking range; I also made money on ChatAbout for a brief time (no longer around), yet made nothing with Teckler (gone with the wind) or RedGage. Daily Two Cents was more of a writing site rather than a social media site, but it never had the user-friendliness to get huge. I really liked Teckler but it was nearly dead by the time I got there (died soon after). RedGage is still online with an 8ook Alexa world ranking, but the functionality is slipping and I never made any money there. MyLot is still around and doing the best of all of them with a 40k Alexa world ranking, but I never made money from them and eventually couldn’t log in.

The recent iteration of this concept has manifested through blockchain technology, such as Minds, Bastyon, and SoMee to name a few. I’ve never made enough to cash out anything, but I do have accounts with these social media sites — SoMee is just starting after their beta test. While similar, they are not the same as Bubblews, as that model has been shown to go bust fairly quickly.

With all this said, we can be grateful for quality writing sites like Medium that allow us to socialize, yet write seriously and sincerely without simply craving for pennies. If there are any lessons to learn from the bubble bust, don't put all your eggs in one basket and this internet world is ever-changing.

Originally published at Medium Dec. 14, 2022


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