It’s hard to shock the staff of Gizmodo. Collectively, we’ve spent millions of hours online, covering everything from fishman dildos to catfish fetishists. Today, however, we discovered something truly surprising: Reddit Public Access Network, the platform’s new experiment with livestreaming, is honestly pretty good.
Launched on Tuesday as a five-day test, RPAN invites select Reddit users to broadcast live video of whatever they want (within reasonable limits) and then have other redditors vote and comment on those streams. That may sound a lot like every other livestreaming service, but, so far, the results speak for themselves.
Browsing through RPAN today, my coworkers and I watched a guy reviewing coloured pencils, someone playing with a refrigerator door with their feet and a man counting out loud as he pets his dog hundreds of times. If all of that sounds silly or stupid, it’s because it is. And maybe it’s just me, but I miss how silly and stupid the internet of the past could be.
Explicitly aping the aesthetics and inconsistency of public access television, Reddit’s experiment seems to be cultivating a kind of mundane weirdness that’s difficult to find these days. For now, at least, there are few financial incentives for livestreaming on the platform and not much of an algorithm to game. It’s just people trying to be interesting — without thinking too hard about it.
Past experience gives me plenty of reasons to be suspicious. In the early days, Vine had a similar charm and (before its death by neglect) it became dominated by heavily scripted and edited short videos. Not to mention all the other social networks I joined because they seemed “fun,” only to drift away as they became increasingly toxic. Hell, I even liked Facebook at one point.
So who knows? RPAN might end up being another brand-dominated surveillance platform or the site where the next American tragedy is livestreamed. Maybe it’ll just have a lot of penises. But right now, I like it, and for today (and tomorrow), I’ll be watching.