The largest online mechanical keyboard enthusiast community, r/mk, achieved a milestone. There are now more than 300,000 people who have clacked, will clack, or currently are clacking on that subreddit.
This development bodes well for the future of mechanical keyboards in general. It’s not merely the fact that 300,000 people is a lot of people (it is), it’s how quickly that number was achieved. For perspective, there were less than 250,000 subscribers as of February 2018. In about seven months, over 50,000 more people became self-professed keyboard enthusiasts. That’s approximately 238 new subs every day, on average. Those numbers are staggering, and they’re growing.
Looking back just a few years ago, this present would have been hard to predict. Mechanical keyboards weren’t on the radar of most tech publications at all. The major debate was Cherry versus Kailh. There were only so many companies anywhere making keyboards and switches and keycaps.
Now, even decidedly mainstream tech sites have lists of “best” gaming keyboards, etc. We have what Andrew Lekashman of the Input Club calls a “Cambrian explosion” of switches. And there are now so many small shops, individuals, group buy runners, and keycap artisans who make and sell keyboards and related parts and pieces that virtually no one can keep track of all of them.
Meetups are growing in number and scale, and vendors large and small are taking notice. If they don’t already, they’ll increasingly realize that they need to be at these meetups, where people meet IRL and mingle and push the industry forward. Soon enough, these events may grow into bona fide mechanical keyboard tradeshows.
Not everyone is enamored of r/mk. Like all online communities, it’s shifted and changed over the years. You can argue whether those movements have been positive or negative; the reality is that it’s probably both. Meanwhile, other mechanical keyboard communities like Geekhack and Deskthority remain mainstays, and there are upstarts in the form of KeebTalk and TypeHype. This is not to mention related subreddits and the constellation of Slacks and Discords where keyboard enthusiasts gather in smaller groups.
Mechanical keyboards, once a hobby that was at best a niche within a niche in the tech world, is morphing into its own standalone industry. Which gives one pause to ponder. Where will we–as an industry–go from here? What will it look like in a year? In two years? In five? What will your role in it be?