The big news this week was “Autodesk Acquires Instructables.” It’s taken me a few days of really thinking about this for my column. Autodesk is jumping in to the biggest DIY community online — it’s a huge risk, with a likely even bigger reward. I think Autodesk knows how to make a thriving business for professionals, but what about makers? That’s what this week’s Soapbox is about: Autodesk acquiring Instructables and what it means for makers.
Step 1: Let's Get This Out of the Way: Ads! Pro! Steps!
Instructables is ad supported — there are ads, lots of them. Sponsored contests, too. This was all before the acquisition. Needing to log in to see all steps, PDF downloads, less ads? This requires a pro membership (starting at $1.95/month). Instructables did this during the advertising downturn in 2008/2009 when the site needed to generate revenue to pay people and staff. At the time, it was the biggest controversy, and commenters claimed it would be the end of the site in six months. That didn’t happen — the site only got bigger. They survived. I wanted to mention this first because these are things before they were acquired by Autodesk. Usually “more ads” and “more ways to make money” happen after an acquisition.
Instructabliss is a site that I’ve seen posted a few times; it loads pages from Instructables and puts all the different pages on one single page. It also handles things like logging in so you can view everything. I don’t use it since I don’t know how or if my log in would be stored on another site. As Instructables gets more resources to hire, we might see UI changes and better browsing experiences.
For my viewing, I use an ad blocker like many people do for many sites. I have a pro membership because I’ve used it for work. I always wanted a version of Instructables I could download and run on my server like you can with WordPress. I would still like to pay for a package that lets me run my own Instructables on the sites I work on. I think that’s not likely now, but I’ll talk about this later in the article. As far as charging money for anything or having ads, many people do not like that MAKE has ads, or has a print magazine that costs money to subscribe to and that we charge most attendees money for tickets to Maker Faire.
I also know some “experts” don’t like many of the basic, simple, or in their words “just plain wrong” projects on Instructables. Again, this is all before Autodesk bought them earlier this week. Not every project is a winner. I understand some of the projects aren’t that great. If I was 10 years old now, I’d post some stuff too that experts would hate on, but that’s the nature of the site when you have this many people sharing. Instructables recently added a lot of editorial staff to make the site better, pushing the good content out more. Again, this was pre-Autodesk.
I wanted to spend time talking about this because I don’t want the comments here to have the same things I mentioned here (Ads! Pro accounts! All the steps!). Or Revit vs AutoCAD vs MicroStation. This article is about what this acquisition means for makers, and for Autodesk. This is about the future. If you have specific things you’d like to see Instructables do or change, post on their site, where they’ve asked for this. Please stay on topic here on MAKE! What will this mean for makers?
OK, let’s get going…