Meetup feels the wrath of the crowd after radical changes

Meetup, a long time go-to place to create local online groups, has undergone a major re-launch in the past day. However, it may have missed a trick: not consulting the meetup organizers who pay through the nose for the service. There now appears to be something of a revolt going on amongst some organisers, who are vociferously protesting about the changes.

The reaction of annoyed organisers and members has turned into two, count-em, Twitter hashtags: #newmeetup and #meetuporganizersunite.

Alternatives to Meetup like BigTent are being touted, as is GroupSpaces – a startup which last year raised $1.3 million from the likes of Index Ventures and Angels like Dave McClure and Chris Sacca. It is is already gunning for “FormerMeetupOrganizers” with its own group and a blog post on the subject.

Meetup users are also a little annoyed about the site possibly closing discussion threads discussing the changes and a Facebook page titled “Mark Zuckerberg, help! Please create Meetup event functionality on FB” has been set up.

Now some organizers are now blogging about alternatives and it’s significant that an arts and craft meetup organiser, typical of the average Meetup groups, is thinking of going elsewhere.

The complaints appear to be about the new layout, the design (“truly tacky and cheap looking” says one organiser), the downgrading of photos, and the fact that anymeetup member of a group can now organise an event. Normally that would be fine, right? Except it rather removes the point of an lead organiser paying the monthly subscription fee.

A one writes: “I did everything I was supposed to. I built a successful group that is of benefit to many people, to the community, and represents the Meetup idea well. And, still, it’s been damaged and diminished by forces outside my control.”

Meetup appears to have made more of its ‘sponsors’, which offer 10% off local coupons (a la Foursquare or Groupon), but complainers say these bear little relation to the groups themselves.

So far Meetup says there are no plans to revert back to the old version of Meetup.

Now, of course, it’s often the case that long-time users of a site might complain – remember when Facebook created news feeds? Meetup appears to be radically shifting towards a more Web 2.0-ish approach where there is no one single meetup leader, any member can suggest a meetup, and things are just supposed to bubble up from the crowd. Borrowing from Plancast, Meetup is now using “Count me in” instead of RSVP. But the fact that maps are replacing photos is also concerning members, since these might reveal some people’s home addresses.

As GreenTechGirl blogs, organisers “don’t want their Meetup turned into a Twitter feed or a Facebook page.”

Let us know what you think of the Meetup changes in the comments.