The decline of Chowhound, by the numbers


Oh, I don’t at all disagree with some of what you’re saying – that the current way of doing things doesn’t make long-term users feel valued is a huge problem. Bringing on new, energetic users would be great – but I think that’s a battle that’s already lost.

I guess I see a few complications with the ire aimed at Marssy and Pat: for one, anyone coming into those jobs (with orders to execute a plan that was bound to piss a ton of people off) would have had a hard time succeeding. The community manager could have been an angel of empathy, and people still would have been furious. Chowhound’s vociferous user base is awesome to behold when it means lively and interesting reviews. It’s tough when you feel that passion bearing down on you in terms of complaints, nasty emails and insults that feel personal.

Also, I guess I’m just really uncomfortable with some of the language lobbed at them; calling them lazy and stupid feels unnecessary. They’re real people. I have no idea if they took a corporate job because they’re supporting a disabled partner, needed to use a health benefit, etc. I also don’t know what they’re incented on and what the long-term plans for the site are. I don’t see it as a black and white scenario.

Back to hyperbowler’s really excellent (and generous) analysis: I think message boards are on their way out. I’m in my 30s, I know very few people my age or younger who use them. I had a group of real-life pals who used Chowhound who were about my age and most have turned to Twitter and Instagram for the type of intel they used to find on the SF Bay Board. The data here tells the story of a long-time downward trend that started many years ago, before tags, before the current management, and even before the regime that preceded this one.

I’m really happy that HO exists, and I hope it succeeds. Right now, it hasn’t quite hit a critical mass in my area where it feels dependably useful – I’m not sure it’s the place I’d turn if I thought “hm, what’s an under-the-radar place can I go for lunch in X neighborhood?” I hope it becomes that, and I’m at least doing my little part by contributing.


Exactly right. Ever since Leff sold the site, the new owner(s) have been trying to monetize it, without success. Maybe they now have the clicks they want, but not much current content. The real value to us former 'Hounds is now the archive, which I fear may not be around that much longer.

(Andrea) #43

Maybe I’m showing my age (44) but how does one find dining recommendations on Instagram? I follow plenty of chefs around the world but don’t see it as a community or exchange of info just photo sharing.


I think people use it in a lot of different ways. To keep updated on trends (“Hmm, seeing a lot of cardamom buns lately…”. To follow restaurants, critics or home cooks to see what they’re making or eating. People comment and exchange information on the photos (e.g. “The dim sum here looks good, but do you know where I can find X specific dish?”)

For example, in London, this foodie has 127,000 followers just looking at what he’s eating: You can click on one of the photos and see people tagging their friends (I could tag you and say “Babette, let’s go to this place”) or asking questions of the instagrammer who posted the photo.

It’s definitely not as text heavy as a forum, but I think that’s the trend for younger people – more photos, more videos, shorter text.

(erica) #45

IIRC, somewhere i9 the 2015 CH flap, someone posted (there? here?) that they had copied
the CH archive.


There’s always the wayback machine:


Yes a typo - but opens up a interesting train of thought…

(Gary Soup) #48

Having had the distinction of being kicked off of both Egullet and Chowhound, I’d characterize the former as being over-managed from the top down, and the latter as having too little oversight of local moderators, who tended to be bullies on some boards.

(erica) #49

Thanks! Tech-impaired as I am, I never knew this existed. Should CH fold, the content would still be accessible via this link? If so, that’s good to keep in mind.

(lagatta à montréal) #50

Relatively few Québec “hounds” have migrated here, so sometimes I post there asking specific questions about restaurants and food availability at home. Not much use for me to know about that in different cities (except perhaps Ottawa and Québec) as I’m not going to fly to Boston for fresh fish (alas no direct train to that city).

(L. Freeman) #51

Reality Bites! How I loved that movie. It wasn’t great, but that and Singles was it for us.

(Kathy S. ) #52

I’m curious what the point of eGullet is too? I know jperlow hasn’t posted in over a decade, and I know nothing about him, but I’d like to get it from the horse’s mouth: what is the purpose of eGullet?

On the surface, it seems like a site that wants to be taken seriously, almost academic, they used to have some big names posting like a regular joes, circa 2007 (jose andres, grant achatz, sean brock, anthony bourdain). There would be a lot of amateurs, but that was the charm, they were “trying” to achieve something great, they recognized greatness, it was a wide network of knowledge. They even have what is called a Culinary Institute (half the links are broken, but it was a great idea and it’s free). Roaming around the archives is like roaming around a great ruin, so much history and knowledge on those pages.

But now, it’s like a zombie apocalypse has come and wiped out that once-proud civilization. It didn’t take me long to realize the inhabitants now are half-crazies, babbling nonsense, caring little about days of yore. You don’t believe me? Read what Reddit has to say about it

I hear bits and pieces of what happened, but no one seriously reported what happened and the reason for its demise and what the hell it is now and why no one wants to be a part of it. But I’m curious. I invested a year of posting there, and I’m at a crossroads at whether or not I should continue. I’d like to hear the full story.

(John Hartley) #53

I think that’s a fair assessment.

I used to regularly play on its UK/Ireland board. It was small group of contributors but these were, in the main, fellow Britons eating right across the country at a range of restaurants, whereas Chowhound was mainly American tourists visiting just London and eating at the “same old, same old” places that had been visitied by previous American tourists. Then folks simply went away - blogs, Twitter and Facebook had killed off yet another discussion board.

So, to answer your question - eGullet has no point. It’s passed on. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. It’s a stiff. Bereft of life, it rests in peace.Its metabolic processes are now history. It’s off the twig. It’s kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. This is an ex-forum

(For the Horde!) #54

That is too bad. I guess I hadn’t heard about the news. I used to read eGullet from time to time when I was still posting on Chowhound.

(Gwenn) #55

Love the Monty Python reference!

(Kathy S. ) #56

Thank you. I knew it to be true, I just needed confirmation. But I’ll go back and read your posts, I’m curious. :slight_smile:

(Andrea) #57

On the one hand, I totally agree that Chowhound has declined due to design and other decisions they made.

On the other, a lot has changed in 15+ years. We can bemoan how great the boards used to be, but remember that they started before Instagram, Yelp, or competed for attention. If you want to know what star chefs are up to, follow them on social media! And some of the very active early members have retired, or died, or simply moved on. Like the baker on eG who shared tales from Las Vegas - well he moved to Seattle, pastry chef-ed for some restaurants, opened a bakery, sold the bakery, and is presumably retired by now. Or remember Sam Fujisaka on CH? There are only so many people in the world with that wealth of knowledge and willingness to share.

Personally, I used to go out a lot and report on restaurants, but my budget has changed so I don’t anymore. I also don’t have that many questions about food or cooking anymore - I don’t know it all, but my posts on CH are more likely to be answering a question than asking it. And how many times can we talk about tipping, check splitting, food left out overnight … there’s only so much to discuss. I do value eG for some particular posters with technical expertise, they’ve been very helpful.


This is all true but Chowhound usage fell of the cliff when they changed formats.

(Andrea) #59

Yeah, I never subscribed to tabs or whatever you were supposed to do, I just check Latest Discussions to see if there’s anything interesting. Same approach here, actually!


I really was upset when Sam died. He always talked about his land in Oregon , but health intervenes with all of us. :frowning: