As soon as we announced the registration, many of our, ahem, fans predicted our quick demise. Indeed, some have even gone so far as to say it has already occurred, and "hits are exponentially down." While I hate to ruin a really clever comment with the facts, the fact is, the site is doing fine:
Fact #1: Last week, the week we turned on registration (Tuesday), this website saw the 4th highest weekly traffic in its history.
Fact #2: January's traffic was the highest monthly traffic on this website ... ever. Page views have increased almost 60 percent since last January.
Fact #3: This week, traffic is on pace to hit the same number of page views we had the week BEFORE we turned on the registration.
Now, I've still got my fingers crossed. I hope people continue to find good stuff on this site, and I hope even more people find the site and join in. I hope in six months or a year, the comments will be a rich, vibrant, entertaining marketplace of ideas. And, naturally, I hope our traffic continues to grow. We're going to continue working on tools and content to make that happen, and that means continuing to work on and improve the registration system.
We introduced registration at this moment because the comments needed to start replicating the dynamics of face-to-face interaction, such as accountability. But we were always going to end up there. Because registration lets you do cool stuff.
For example, I'm often frustrated reading news online because it seems I can't ever find the deeper content I'm interested in. I get the New York Times in my email about 4 times a day and it drives me nuts how much I'm reading the same 3 headlines over and over ... and over. And I know there's all kinds of stories being published by the Times that I would love to read, but I have to work pretty hard to find them. We're working on systems that will customize the website to each user's individual interests -- like Amazon recommends books based on the other stuff you've bought. Systems like that aren't going to show up for another six months to a year on our sites, but they aren't possible without registration.
In the end, registration is good for everyone. It creates identity (social media wouldn't be possible without it). It turns the web from a novelty into a tool, because it persists your data. It can only be a real part of our lives once we sign up for it.