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Topix began as a news aggregator which categorizes news stories by topic and geography. In the last few years, Topix changed its focus from aggregation and curation, to content creation. Topix removed the human sexuality topic, which was one of its most popular topics, from its forums on June 26, 2016. The Topix local news and forums were shut down on December 20, 2018. Topix launched new entertainment-focused slideshow and quiz based sites named Stars and Offbeat in 2015, and has continued to launch additional new sites since. Topix is in the top 100 largest US based websites according to Quantcast.
It was co-founded in 2004 by Bryn Dole, Rich Skrenta, Bob Truel, Tom Markson, Mike Markson and Chris Tolles, many of whom founded the Open Directory Project. In March 2005, the Knight Ridder (later taken over by The McClatchy Company), Tribune Company and Gannett media companies purchased a 75% share of the company. On April 1, 2007, it acquired the topix.com domain name and invited volunteers to edit the topics of their choice, on top of over 100 journalists and editors from various newspapers already signed up. Sometime in 2012 they took that volunteer edit option away without any communication to the thousands of volunteers.
Topix went on to create a community news editing platform, and popular forum system, allowing users to comment on news articles and the goings on of local communities. Topix also created forums, organized by locality as well as by subject matter, which allow visitors to post comments whether or not they are relevant to a particular news story.
The founders of Topix initially wanted it to be a news aggregator, with specific pages for every community in the United States. As Topix matured, most of its growth occurred in small cities and towns in the United States. The people who commented in the Topix forums wanted to focus the discussions on more traditional small community gossip. Topix's main user base consists of posters from cities and towns in the United States. Chris Tolles, the chief executive of Topix LLC since June 2007, said that Topix is very popular in "the feud states".
Topix has the following category-specific sites:
Management Team at Topix
A. G. Sulzberger of The New York Times wrote that "The same Web sites created as places for candid talk about local news and politics are also hubs of unsubstantiated gossip, stirring widespread resentment in communities where ties run deep, memories run long and anonymity is something of a novel concept". He added that "Whereas online negativity seems to dissipate naturally in a large city, it often grates like steel wool in a small town where insults are not easily forgotten". Various local governments censured the Topix forums. Many lawsuits resulted from content posted on Topix.
On February 3, 2009, Mark and Rhonda Lesher filed a lawsuit against anonymous posters on Topix.com. According to their petition, over 1,700 defamatory statements were made about them by anonymous posters, resulting in 2,568 allegations of defamation and libel. Although Topix was not a party to the lawsuit, it was forced to reveal the IP addresses of the posters and the dangers of unmoderated anonymous posting on Topix were publicly brought to light for the first time.
Initially Topix charged money to people who requested that Topix expedite the removal of negative posts. After thirty state attorneys general protested, Topix stopped charging. Jack Conway, the Kentucky Attorney General, said the charging scheme "smacked of having to pay a fee to get your good name back".
On March 20, 2012, online gossip was the subject of a story called "Innocent Man's Life Destroyed by Anonymous Topix Poster" on Good Morning America. Topix CEO Chris Tolles was interviewed for the piece.