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[Picking up keys and chatting] Niche and fashion, chaos and development——an extraordinary year in the keyboard circle, what I have seen, heard and felt.

2022 is an extraordinary year for me. The success or failure of the key ring is particularly obvious in this year. It was also this year that I began to transform from a consumer to a creator, met more people, and thought about more problems that I didn't think about before. Let me talk about my thoughts and feelings this year, as well as some plans for the future. Although they are all superficial understandings, sharing them can be regarded as an experience. Thank you very much for your viewing and opinions. Friendly discussions in the comment area are welcome.

The communication between people in modern society is no longer limited to the forms of discourse and letters in the past, but more inclined to fast network input and communication. Fast and frequent information exchange makes input tools become daily necessities for long-term and high-frequency contact in life and work. The epidemic in 2020 has brought online office into people's lives on a large scale in advance, and people have also begun to re-examine their desks. The mechanical keyboard market has not declined but increased under the epidemic.

The rising popularity of mechanical keyboards can be demonstrated to a certain extent whether it is from the increasing discussion on the topic of mechanical keyboards in daily life or from the sharp increase in the number of mechanical keyboard brands in recent years.

Data Source: What's Worth Buying

In recent years, what I can clearly perceive in the field of mechanical keyboards is that there are more and more choices, whether it is mass production or customization, whether it is shafts, keycaps, or kits. Domestic mechanical keyboards have undoubtedly grown at the "material" level.

In the field of shafts, domestic shafts have sprouted since 2010-2012, and gained fame at this key node in 2019. The domestic shaft market has also evolved from Cherry's one-man show to the current contention of a hundred schools of thought.

Jiadalong's product timeline 2012—2020

In the field of keycaps, most of the past customized players could only choose overseas brands such as GMK and SP. Now there are old domestic customized keycaps JTK, Domikey that will appear in 2019, PBTfans that will enter the market in 2022, and various other keycaps. There are also many different options in the field of keycap foundries, including mass production.

With the increase in the number of studios and brands, domestic customization and mass production of mechanical keyboards seem to have entered a "thriving" stage. There is no doubt that more and more players will join the circle of mechanical keyboards in the future. Does the increase in the number of people mean that this circle can grow bigger and bigger?

If one word were used to describe the current keyboard market, it would be "chaotic".

Since the keyboard industry has no specific legal provisions and production standards in terms of production, the market has become chaotic, and even "fake" products have appeared (piracy and plagiarism are two concepts), and various switches have appeared at the production level. There is no consistent standard for the tolerance, which leads to the situation that the axis of the shaft is too large and the shaft of the keycap is enlarged or even cracked, and the axis is too small to stabilize the keycap. The above examples are just the tip of the iceberg of problems in the entire production process.

In mid-July this year, I went to Jiadalong in Huizhou City, Guangdong Province. When I talked with the person in charge of Jiadalong, they were also very worried and concerned about it.

In fact, there have been a lot of things lately about keycaps not fitting well with switches.

catapult start

At present, it is almost impossible to regulate production through legal means in a short period of time. The only thing these manufacturers can do is to produce products according to the size of the traditional Cherry shaft body and the standard of GMK keycaps, so as to Make sure to adapt as many keyboard accessories as possible to the user.

The lack of supervision in the market and the inability of consumers and manufacturers to communicate effectively have led to a "chaotic" state of the keyboard market today.

If this circle wants to become bigger and stronger in the future, it must be regulated and standardized in terms of production, otherwise there will be more and more similar problems.

This can be said to be common in the customization circle. When delays become the norm, product after-sales is not guaranteed, and capital flows in the style of "interest-free loans" in the customization market.

The reason to find an excuse for these hidden dangers is simple, delay-it is normal for small-volume factories not to pay attention. No after-sales service——customized products have "customized" attributes, so it is normal not to provide after-sales service. Interest-free loan - small business, high risk is normal.

But I think these so-called "difficulties" should gradually disappear as the circle continues to grow. It is gratifying that some teams have begun to try to protect the rights and interests of consumers and merchants through third-party guarantees such as Taobao, ZF1 and some agents going to the platform.

If the "material" level of domestic mechanical keyboards is progressing by leaps and bounds, then it can be said that the level of community culture is standing still, or even regressing.

In the past, I saw many websites and forums such as chiphell, Baidu Tieba, Peripheral World, Peripheral Hall, etc. These websites are still in use today, but either their popularity has dropped sharply, or they are similar to Baidu Tieba. It did not continue, and the rising star self-media platform and some new communities did not become a friendly, open, and in-depth platform as imagined.

I always hope that there will be a community comparable to Geekhack in China, or a Reddit keyboard section, which can provide players with effective information and methods to better understand mechanical keyboards or how to play with customized platforms. Maybe the forum is a little outdated, but even the major streaming media platforms such as Douyin, Xiaohongshu, and Bilibili on the mobile phone have not formed positive guidance. From "Raindrop Sound" to "Mahjong Sound", and even "Hokkaido Gravel Sound", which judges the quality of a keyboard by sound, it became popular on Xiaohongshu and Douyin, and is known as the ruler of Mahjong Sound. "Crystal wine red axis 2" becomes a leek harvester for "keyboard bloggers".

It is "normal" that there are some video content in the circle that are used to gain attention. This year, I have contacted many players who have become keyboard bloggers. They more or less feel that the current keyboard community lacks an upward direction. . The good thing is that there are still some people who are willing to think and share some valuable content to help the whole circle build a better community culture, and more and more people are joining it.

The trend of mechanical keyboards has come too fast, whether it is "old gun" or "new", it is more or less uncomfortable.

In May and June of this year, with the help of my friends in the circle and my own efforts, I obtained the results of an immature questionnaire. Although the number of samples is only 800+, I think this questionnaire still has some points worthy of reference.

Population Age Report for Questionnaires

Regardless of the results of the questionnaire survey or observations in daily life, the keyboard players are still very young as a whole, and the proportion of young people will increase in the future, and it will take several years or even ten years to maintain it. a stable ratio. Young people, including students, account for a relatively high proportion of keyboard circles, which is also related to the applicable population of mechanical keyboards.

When a player steps into this circle, "confusion" follows.

Take shaft manufacturers as an example. In 2022, the types of shafts manufactured by shaft manufacturers have changed from the four basic types of green, black, tea and black in the past to hundreds of shafts of various colors. The types of shafts and shafts of this book are still increasing.

For such a market environment, players gradually feel tired, and as players grow, they also make some voices of their own.

Self-filling suggestions from questionnaires Extraction of keywords

At the same time, due to the impact of community development, players often cannot find an effective and correct way to solve their own problems. Still taking the shaft as an example, there are different opinions on the matter of "how to lubricate the shaft".

As for how to choose a keyboard that suits them, many players will fall into "confusion". In such a big environment, it is easy to lose their direction. Many players don't know what they really need, so that "Take a detour" and "pay tuition".

Many people may think that the mechanical keyboard circle is still in a bonus period, and both sales and profits are rising all the way. But this is not the case. After I visited several factories and brands, and communicated with large and small foundries, this year is a "cold winter" for them. For many manufacturers, there is no longer a new product that is sold out immediately after it is put on the shelves, and it is no longer a time when you can make a lot of money by relying on a few single products.

On the one hand, the economic impact of the epidemic is gradually taking effect. Although the epidemic was severe in the past two years, most people still have a certain amount of funds in reserve, and the downward pressure on the economy did not take effect immediately. However, after two years of the epidemic, consumers' consumption power and consumption habits have changed, and careful planning and consumption downgrades have further cooled the madness of the market.

On the other hand, as a consumer, I can clearly perceive that this year’s product update frequency is particularly high, and so-called “roll king” products have appeared one after another, and this is also related to the competition in the entire keyboard market.

It is very difficult to make a good keyboard, but it is not difficult to make a keyboard, or even a "roll king" keyboard.

In the keyboard industry, for ordinary people, there may be various thresholds. But for the employer, these are nothing more than a matter of money, because the keyboard industry does not have the so-called "technical barriers" at the basic end. With funds and channels, it is almost possible to establish a brand in situ, and the foundry is there. Not going anywhere.

But it is very difficult to make a good keyboard, which is why there are so many small brands in the keyboard industry, but it is rare to see a brand with absolute dominance. Without its own brand value, it can only become an OEM brand.

In the past few years, a large number of brands have poured into the market, and the fierce price war has caused the profit margin of the entire industry to decline, while the technical level has stagnated.

New products continue to appear. These "new products" are often not flagships in the actual sense. Many of them are just skin replacements and stockpiling. The rapid update and iteration of these products has led to the continuous increase in production and storage costs of manufacturers. At the same time, profit margins Once entering this competition, there is no possibility of stopping. This is also a major challenge for the low-end market.

In the short term, this may be a good thing for players, as they can buy low-priced "high-end" products as much as possible, but I am not optimistic about this. Just like the "milk" in the industry, it wastes the production capacity of the entire circle. On the other hand, it is constantly overdrawing its vitality. Some small brands with ideas will easily disappear in this melee. "Competing for share, starving others to death" , This is the iron law of the market, and it is also an unchangeable fact. On the supply chain side, they are far less powerful than those big factories.

In the field of customization, there are a lot of new products this year. At one time, there were more than 10 group opening messages a day, which is several times that of a few years ago. At the same time, there are also some pure male models, or products that pile up elements meaninglessly. It is very normal for one or two of these products to appear. The circle also needs some introductory and dessert kits to pave the way for newcomers, but when the homogeneity becomes more and more serious, this requires vigilance.

Although the general environment is like this, there are still many studios and brands insisting on some "persistence".

In the field of mass production this year, the keyboard that impressed me the most is the CL98 from Click Lab. In the eyes of many people, the appearance of this keyboard is mediocre, but as long as they have disassembled this keyboard, they can see that they have researched and understood mechanical keyboards. Due to the space, I will not discuss it here. I will write a detailed review about this keyboard when I have a chance later.

Taken from killo

In the field of customization, there are also many excellent works this year, such as Capsule 65% (Capsule 65) from Pixelspace Studio.

humanoid bird shooting

R67 (Valentine's Day) from JOJO.STUDIO.

Filmed by .LL., photographed by Maizichao

It is these products with interesting and unique designs that contribute to the construction of the customized circle.

The key circle is growing in chaos.

When I started writing my first column, I had no idea that this was the kind of question that would one day haunt me. At the beginning, the creative motivation was just to write for fun. As I wrote more and more articles, I gradually discovered that some players and friends needed such articles to "solve problems" for them. The key circle is a circle with very limited traffic, at least for those bloggers who focus on keyboards and content. This is a group of people who listen to the public, but the actual core audience is really only a group of people, only a group of people who are really interested in keyboards and want to study.

But I am optimistic about the future. After communicating with these outstanding creators, brands, and foundries, I am more convinced that the keyboard circle will gradually become popular in the future, and more and more people will join this circle. many. And my desire to do something for the circle is getting stronger and stronger. There are countless things I can't change in this circle, but what I can do is very clear, that is, to create some content, to do something that I think is useful. Valuable content, I hope that these contents can help more people have fun, and I also hope that these contents can contribute to the keyboard circle.

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