The news aggregating app Artifact is shutting down.

Jarrod Blundy wrote at his blog HeyDingus:

I do wonder if it would have had a brighter future without the ability to add comments. I never engaged with that social aspect of the service, and I expect it contributed massively to its complexity and moderation costs.

I think about this every time a good news or link aggregation app goes away. These apps are, fundamentally, trying to help you sort the signal from the noise in an overwhelming “media ecosystem” or whatever we’re supposed to call it these days.

As soon as they add their own social layer on top of the news and the links, they have betrayed their best use case and their most loyal users. It’s like buying a pair of earplugs, only to have them turn into in-ear headphones or hearing aides you don’t need and never asked for.

Engagement, which they thought would spike after going social, craters. Resources, which were optimized and sufficient and scalable with increasing revenue over time, are siphoned off, as Jarrod wrote, into moderation and increasingly complex development cycles.

It’s a kind of death spiral that most founders notice too late, so kudos, of a sort, to Artifact’s founders for knowing the telltale signs of a terminally ill app, and letting it die with some dignity.

There are already plenty of places to share links and half-baked hot takes. The real challenge, for Artifact’s founders and anyone else with the leadership, technical and fundraising skills to tackle it, is to build something extremely useful to individuals without draining all of its lifeblood into a push for “social” that ultimately just turns it into another internet noise machine.