CNET to Shut Down Consumating

Just received word moments ago that Consumating, the niche dating community acquired by CNET in December 2005, will be shutting down next month. In the wake of the sale of Webshots to American Greetings, it appears that CNET couldn’t find a buyer for the site and is no longer interested in maintaining it.

Founders Ben Brown and Adam Mathes are no longer affiliated with Consumating, but they were the first to break the news two hours ago. “Just got word of the plan to turn off Consumating,” Ben wrote on Twitter. Adam replied, “Beginning my long mourning period over the end of Consumating.”

After Ben Brown left CNET in Spring 2007, Jesse Keyes took over managing the site. This morning, he posted a revealing Question of the Week on Consumating: “What will you do when it all comes grinding to a halt?” Jesse’s own response was, “Pack it up and call it a day…”

Rumors of its demise have been swirling for the last two weeks, so most of the community didn’t seem surprised in the active discussions. A week ago, Consumating users set up an off-site message board to ease the transition and keep friendships alive, in the event of a closure.

Though there hasn’t been an official statement from CNET on the matter, sources close to the company confirmed that the shutdown date will be March 15. Users will be able to download a data dump of their questions, answers, and other social activity as a comma-separated file.

Even though Consumating never found a huge audience or revenue, it’s worth noting that it still has a dedicated following that loves the site, uses it every day, and formed offline relationships because of it. It’s unfortunate that CNET couldn’t find a way to keep the site online, even if that meant handing it back to the users that made it special. Since online communities are built on top of user’s contributions and social interactions, it raises the question: are companies responsible for keeping community website alive, even after they cease to be strategically desirable?

Well, maybe the Consumating founders did find a way to preserve it after shutdown. Shortly before Ben Brown left, he pushed CNET to open source the Consumating code base. That project, Clonesumating, is available on Google Code. After it’s burned to the ground, maybe an open version of Consumating will rise from the ashes.

February 14 Update: Yesterday, Jesse Keyes gave the official announcement. “We know you want and deserve a site that is vibrant and fresh, and we don’t think it’s fair to you to keep an unsupported site live. And so, we’ll be shutting Consumating.com down on March 15th,” he wrote. “In a couple weeks we’ll have a way available for you to download a file with most of your profile data, which could theoretically be imported into a similar site. Details will come when we’re ready to release the exporter.”

According to this thread, the private messaging feature recently stopped working and nobody’s around to fix it. How depressing.

16 thoughts on “CNET to Shut Down Consumating

  1. What a bummer. First Ze Frank’s The ORG and now this. Sites are seldom about the tech (or machines, or hosting, etc) but are about the communities. CNET should give users an export of their data that can be reconstructed in a new place.

  2. That really sucks. I started using Consumating waay back at the beginning. I always really liked it but never got terribly involved with the site’s community. They seriously need to let *someone* redevelop it from what they have. It’s hugely unfair on the community to just throw their online home away.

  3. Offering a CSV file is interesting. Are there any other examples of sites shutting down and offering a similar “take it with you” solution?

  4. Ok, hopefully this won’t be like when your pet dies and someone says, hey, just get another. Nerd Passions (http://www.nerdpassions.com) is a 100% free online dating and social networking site for technophiles and those that embrace a more cerebral way of life. Everyone at Consummating is welcome to set up a (100% free) profile at Nerd Passions. We don’t claim to be exactly the same, but there are some similarities, and since we’re completely free, it would only take a little time to create a profile and (maybe) be able to maintain your existing friendships/relationships online. We hope to see a mad rush of consummators.

  5. As a fairly prominent member of Consumating, I think it’s a shame that CNET couldn’t figure out a way just to turn over the site to the users. Yes, it never developed a huge membership or produced lots of revenue, but the members are loyal. It is unique in that the social meetings became a huge focus for the site, and that’s not trivial.

    However, there are plans to develop a version based on the open source code. Apparently, it will go live sometime in the next week or so.

  6. Didn’t Ben release an open source version of the software behind consumating? Wouldn’t it be trivial for someone to start it all over on a new server?

  7. There are people working diligently on a successor that has nothing to do with cnet. Details on it will be coming in the next couple of days.

  8. Thank you for the nice summary of what we have there. Even if users (including myself) have complained about things being boring and not as awesome lately, it’s still a place we’d like to have around.

  9. Matt: I wouldn’t say trivial. The code is pretty sparse, and missing all of the assets. No design, no old topics, and no userbase means starting completely from scratch. But if they’re able to get something up in a week, like AArtaud mentioned, that’s pretty awesome.

  10. There’s something bittersweet in the successes of all of the commercially owned community sites, and the bitter part is all you’re left with when the site owner decides (or, is forced to) to totally change or kill the site.

    * Research topic request: what are all of the significant web-based online community sites that have met a fate like Consumating? And, where, if anywhere, did the community go, after the site changed / shut down?

    So, kind-of like:

    MP3.com: Behind the Music

    and

    MP3.com Musicians: Where Are They Now?

  11. The site is (almost) dead. Long live the site. I committed over a year ago to putting up a Consucode based site should this one go down. There are at least three other projects underway to do the same. I’ve been talking an awful lot with Crimson about a project he’s been doing on a full rebuild sans the many bugs that have so impeded functionality and we’ve planned all along to merge his project with mine. Frankly, I’m mighty busy at the moment with my core business but hell, much of the bricks and mortar infrastructure I’ve spent the past year and half putting in place would sure help with running a site. And I’m pretty sure that I can get some of the old time geek folks from /. and such to at least give such a site a try.

    I’m very sad to see Consumating dropped by CNet. Frankly, if they had been willing to wait another three or four months it would have made things a hell of a lot easier all around. But it ain’t over yet.

  12. Consumating was wonderful, I was a member almost from the beginning and I loved to meet so many people who didn’t suck in one place. Even I couldn’t use it so much for various reasons lately I am still in contact with many of the members, some I have met, some are friends now.

    Consumating had a big impact on many people’s lifes, was playful, nerdy, geeky, friendly and likeable with all it weirdness and flaws. It makes me sad to see the site go.

    It is a shame how things are handled by CNET – there shold be a better solution.

    Franz, Germany and #1 for a while.

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