The History of Reddit
The History of Reddit
In order to fully understand the Reddit we know and love today, it’s important to first understand where this platform has come from, what it has endured, and what it has changed to arrive at where it sits today.
As we have mentioned, this platform was first launched in 2005 – about 15-years ago. Steve Huffan and Alexis Ohanian, two 22-year-old University of Virginia graduates, together founded Reddit after receiving funding ($100,000) from Y Combinator in June 2005. At the time, the two founders were submitting most of the links from many fake accounts to make the site look like it was popular and engaging.
In 2006, they sold Reddit to Conde Nast Publications for $20 million USD, as the site was receiving 500,000 unique daily views at the time. Proceeding to operate as a subsidiary of Conde Nast’s parent company, Advance Publications, by 2011, Reddit outranked Digg, a major competitor that had dominated the online discussion space. In 2009, Steve Huffman left Reddit, citing vision differences and the desire to pursue something else. In 2010, Alexis left Reddit and joined Steve to found Hipmunk.
In 2011, following Reddit’s major ranking success, the company spun out as its own entity again. When the company spun out, Yishan Wong was appointed as CEO. Reddit was starting to pick up some serious steam at the time, which also meant it was at the center of some stressful controversies, from a nude celebrity photo leak and hate speech/gun sale problems, to funding issues that forced the team to relocate to San Francisco following a big funding win. Wong was, of course, criticized for how he handled most of these issues, leading him to appear “noticeably” stressed to everyone working with Reddit at the time.
Resigning the following year amid calls for him to step down, Wong said his intention was to protect the news site he had loved since its early days. He took to Quora the next day and said, “I am basically, completely worn out.”
Ellen Pao was announced to take over at the time, with Alexis returning as an executive chairman to assist the newly independent company again. It was chaotic, to say the least, with former CEO Huffman stating at the time, “it wouldn’t be Reddit if it was functional.”
Many news outlets at the time ran stories regarding the success of Reddit, yet commenting on its inability to convert its popularity into a viable business model. “Traffic was never the problem, everything else was,” wrote Mashable.
Everything seemed amicable for some years until Pao resigned as CEO in 2015. Steve Huffman was there in the waiting, ready to snatch up his leadership position again. Huffman is currently the CEO of Reddit, working closely with Alexis to execute their vision yet again for the platform.
Now that you have a better understanding of the tumultuous past that gave rise to the Reddit we access today, it’s time to dive into some basic information for better understanding this internet movement.
What is Reddit?
One of Reddit’s biggest branding problems is that it can be defined as so many different things to people. There’s no “one thing” that Reddit does. In its simplest form, Reddit is a social news site that enables users, or Redditors, to create accounts, post content, and comment on other people’s content. When someone goes to share content, they have two options: they can post a link to an external website, or they can write a text “self” post. Each post is open to the Reddit community and can receive up and down votes (we will look at this in coming chapters).
As opposed to Instagram or Snapchat, which is an entirely self-centric social media experience, Reddit is about community. If the entire community feels certain content is good or bad, they can take action on that content. Therefore, when posting to Reddit, Redditors are supposed to think about others and their impact on these people – as opposed to just posting a photo that shows off one’s curves, etc.
Reddit has maintained a 90s looking, retro-style website that the users have come to adore today. It’s not minimal, white, or filled with nice colors and rounded circles. Rather, the Reddit color-scheme is neutral, monotone, dark, and reminiscent of those Dell computers we all had in our basements during the 90s. On Reddit, you can find trends and memes, plus the space alien mascot that has come to define the site in recent times. You can also find celebrity Q&As, as well as other threads that make it easier for users to come into direct contact with the internet heroes.
Which leads to the Reddit slogan that everyone loves to say today: Reddit is the front page of the Internet. Reddit takes the features of a forum, social network, and news aggregator, and plugs it all into one. It’s something like a crossover between Twitter, Quora, Tumblr, and every other chatroom on the internet where users share information about common interests. That’s why it’s one of the most popular websites where people can upload stories, links, and content, sharing it with a greater community of Reddit lovers and adorers.
Reddit is Going to Seem Foreign
At first, you won’t speak the language, you won’t understand the customs, and you’ll accidentally upset or offend some Redditors when you get onto the site. It’s important to know that right now so it doesn’t stress you out or deter you from trying it out fully. Like anything new, it’s best if you get on the site every day and watch how content is moved around, posted, and commented on. Don’t just look at outbound links – dig into comment threads and really get a feel for what people like to chat about.
Here are some other newbie Reddit tips:
- Redditors Refer to the Site A Lot: If you see something posted that just plain doesn’t make sense to you, it’s likely referencing an aspect of Reddit culture, which can be a meme or something else that is unique to the site. Generally, if you keep reading in the comments, you’ll be able to find a reference point that helps you better understand what the comment means. When someone does a good job of explaining things, other Redditors will up vote their explanation so its easier for you to find at the top of the thread.
- Comments Tell All: Reddit is a platform where you are free to post anything you want. This has gotten them into trouble at times, but it remains central to the site. Therefore, if someone starts a subreddit with incorrect information, the comments will tell you that immediately. If the thread has been there long enough, there’s a good chance the best contradictory comment is sitting at the top of the thread. This is how the community self-regulates content without the intervention of Reddit personnel. Facebook and Twitter need external intervention, etc. to clean up things.
- It’s Going to Take Time: Like TikTok, you won’t be able to figure out everything in one day. It’s important to approach Reddit with patience so you are not frustrated or likely to quit it. Take one week to observe, read, and dig deep. You will finally understand it, and probably be hooked.
Some important things to note today: the Reddit user base is primarily male. The average user spends about 16 minutes and 10 seconds on Reddit per day, with Canadians being the biggest “time wasters” on the site today.
Some more stats to takeaway:
- 150 million pages are viewed on Reddit every day
- There are 1.7 billion comments on Reddit
- Reddit is the 6th most visited website in the United States
- Reddit is the 7th most visited website in the world
- There are 40 million searches made on Reddit every day
- More people use Reddit than Snapchat every day
- More people use Reddit than Twitter every day
At this point, you should have received the following impressions: Reddit was created in chaos and in some capacity, still functions that way today; Reddit is the antithesis of common social media sites today and is actually more accessed than some of the biggest apps of all time, like Twitter; and that Reddit is perfectly happy being its own, unique, dysfunctional family that enables community members to post, comment, and vote on content every day.
With that information, it’s time to explore the nuances of this site and how you can “blend in” as a Reddit user if you are just getting started.
For more tips on how to succeed on Reddit, read posts from our published book below:
Intro: HonorSociety.org Reddit Review: Introduction to Success on Reddit
#1: The History of Reddit
#2: Understanding Subreddits
#4: Posting Content
#5: Lingo & Formatting Norms
#6: Who is Not Welcome on Reddit?
#8: 5 Reasons to Join Reddit Today
#9: The Future of Reddit