Reddit is an American social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website.
Registered members submit content to the site such as links, text posts, and images, which are then voted up or down by other members. Posts are organized by subject into user-created boards called “subreddits”, which cover a variety of topics such as news, politics, science, movies, video games, music, books, sports, fitness, cooking, pets and image-sharing. Submissions with more up-votes appear towards the top of their subreddit and, if they receive enough up-votes, ultimately on the site’s front page. Despite strict rules prohibiting harassment, Reddit’s administrators spend considerable resources on moderating the site.
As of May 2020, Reddit ranks as the 19th-most-visited website in the U.S. and in the world, according to Alexa Internet, with 55% of its user base coming from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom at 7.4% and Canada at 5.8%.
Reddit was founded by University of Virginia roommates Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian in 2005. Condé Nast Publications acquired the site in October 2006. In 2011, Reddit became an independent subsidiary of Condé Nast’s parent company, Advance Publications. In October 2014, Reddit raised $50 million in a funding round led by Sam Altman and including investors Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel, Ron Conway, Snoop Dogg, and Jared Leto. Their investment valued the company at $500 million then. In July 2017, Reddit raised $200 million for a $1.8 billion valuation, with Advance Publications remaining the majority stakeholder. In February 2019, a $300 million funding round led by Tencent brought the company’s valuation to $3 billion.
Reddit is a website comprising user-generated content—including photos, videos, links, and text-based posts—and discussions of this content in what is essentially a bulletin board system. The name “Reddit” is a play-on-words with the phrase “read it”, i.e., “I read it on Reddit.” As of 2018, there are approximately 330 million Reddit users, called “redditors”. The site’s content is divided into categories or communities known on-site as “subreddits”, of which there are more than 138,000 active communities.
As a network of communities, Reddit’s core content consists of posts from its users. Users can comment on others’ posts to continue the conversation. A key feature to Reddit is that users can cast positive or negative votes, called upvotes and downvotes respectively, for each post and comment on the site. The number of upvotes or downvotes determines the posts’ visibility on the site, so the most popular content is displayed to the most people. Users can also earn “karma” for their posts and comments, a status that reflects their standing within the community and their contributions to Reddit.
The most popular posts from the site’s numerous subreddits are visible on the front page to those who browse the site without an account. By default for those users, the front page will display the subreddit r/popular, featuring top-ranked posts across all of Reddit, excluding not-safe-for-work communities and others that are most commonly filtered out by users (even if they are safe for work). The subreddit r/all does not filter topics. Registered users who subscribe to subreddits see the top content from the subreddits to which they subscribe on their personal front pages.
Front-page rank—for both the general front page and for individual subreddits—is determined by a combination of factors, including the age of the submission, positive (“upvoted”) to negative (“downvoted”) feedback ratio, and the total vote-count.
Users and moderators
Registering an account with Reddit is free and does not require an email address. In addition to commenting and voting, registered users can also create their own subreddit on a topic of their choosing. In Reddit style, usernames begin with “u/”. For example, noteworthy redditors include u/Poem_for_your_sprog, who responds to messages across Reddit in verse, u /Shitty_Watercolour who posts paintings in response to posts, u/gallowboob, with the highest karma on reddit, and u/spez, the CEO of Reddit (Steve Huffman).
Subreddits are overseen by moderators, Reddit users who earn the title by creating a subreddit or being promoted by a current moderator. These moderators are volunteers who manage their communities, set and enforce community-specific rules, remove posts and comments that violate these rules, and generally work to keep discussions in their subreddit on topic. Admins, by contrast, are paid to work for Reddit.
Discussions on Reddit are organized into user-created areas of interest called “subreddits”. There are about 138,000 active subreddits among a total of 1.2 million, as of July 2018. Subreddit names begin with “r/”. For instance, r/science is a community devoted to discussing scientific topics and r/television is a community devoted to discussing TV shows. Meanwhile, r/popular features top-ranked posts across all of Reddit, excluding NSFW communities and others that are most commonly filtered out by users (even if they are safe for work). The subreddit r/all does not filter topics.
In a 2014 interview with Memeburn, Erik Martin, then general manager of Reddit, remarked that their “approach is to give the community moderators or curators as much control as possible so that they can shape and cultivate the type of communities they want”. Subreddits often use themed variants of Reddit’s alien mascot, Snoo, in the visual styling of their communities.
Reddit Premium (formerly Reddit Gold) is a premium membership that allows users to view the site ad-free. Users may also be gifted coins if another user particularly valued the comment or post, generally due to humorous or high-quality content. Reddit Premium unlocks several features not accessible to regular users, such as comment highlighting, exclusive subreddits, and a personalized Snoo (known as a “snoovatar”). Reddit Gold was renamed Reddit Premium in 2018. In addition to gold coins, users can gift silver and platinum coins to other users as rewards for quality content.
On the site, redditors commemorate their “cake day” once a year, on the anniversary of the day their account was created. Cake day adds an icon of a small slice of cake next to the user’s name for 24 hours.
In 2017, Reddit developed its own real-time chat software for the site. While some established subreddits have used third-party software to chat about their communities, the company built chat functions that it hopes will become an integral part of Reddit. Individual chat rooms were rolled out in 2017 and community chat rooms for members of a given subreddit were rolled out in 2018.
Technology and design
Reddit was originally written in Common Lisp but was rewritten in Python in December 2005 for wider access to code libraries and greater development flexibility. The Python web framework that Swartz developed to run the site, web.py, is available as an open source project. As of November 10, 2009, Reddit used Pylons as its web framework. Reddit was an open source project from June 18, 2008 until 2017. During that time, all of the code and libraries written for Reddit were freely available on GitHub, with the exception of the anti-spam/cheating portions. In a September 2017 announcement, the company stated that “we’ve been doing a bad job of keeping our open-source product repos up to date”, partially because “open-source makes it hard for us to develop some features ‘in the clear’ … without leaking our plans too far in advance”, prompting the decision to archive its public GitHub repos.
While Reddit has continued calling itself open source it has failed to continue updating its code for years. Development forks continue slowly on Reddit-like alternative sites such as SaidIt.net, Ceddit.com, Notabug.io, and Rebbit.kr.
Hosting and servers
As of November 10, 2009, Reddit decommissioned its own servers and migrated to Amazon Web Services. Reddit uses PostgreSQL as their primary datastore and is slowly moving to Apache Cassandra, a column-oriented datastore.[when?] It uses RabbitMQ for offline processing, HAProxy for load balancing and memcached for caching. In early 2009, Reddit started using jQuery.
In 2010, Reddit released its first mobile web interface for easier reading and navigating the website on touch screen devices. For several years, redditors relied on third-party apps to access Reddit on mobile devices. In October 2014, Reddit acquired one of them, Alien Blue, which became the official iOS Reddit app. Reddit removed Alien Blue and released its official application, Reddit: The Official App, on Google Play and the iOS App Store in April 2016. The company released an app for Reddit’s question-and-answer Ask Me Anything subreddit in 2014. The app allowed users to see active Ask Me Anythings, receive notifications, ask questions and vote.
In early June 2020, during the George Floyd protests, over 800 moderators signed an open letter demanding a policy banning hate speech, a shutdown of racist and sexist subreddits, and more employee support for moderation. Bloomberg News pointed out the company’s slow reaction to r/watchpeopledie, and the harassment that accompanied new unmoderated features like icons for purchase and public chats.
On June 29, 2020, Reddit updated its content policy and introduced rules aimed at curbing the presence of communities they believed to be “promoting hate”, and banned approximately 2,000 subreddits that were found to be in violation of the new guidelines on the same day. Larger subreddits affected by the bans included r/The_Donald, a subreddit intended for the support of President Donald Trump, r/GenderCritical, the platform’s largest and most active anti-transgender radical feminist subreddit, and r/ChapoTrapHouse, a far-left subreddit originally created by fans of the podcast Chapo Trap House. Some media outlets and political commentators also condemned the banning of the r/The_Donald and r/ChapoTrapHouse subreddits as a violation of the right to free political expression.
On August 3, 2020, moderators of the subreddit r/Animemes banned usage of the word ‘trap’ to refer to any person or fictional character. The ban was predicated on the real-world usage of the word ‘trap’ as a slur against transgender people, with moderators citing the trans panic defence. In response, many users of the subreddit contended that ‘trap’ was not being used in a non-transphobic manner, but instead to endearingly refer to crossdressers, otokonoko, and characters with related identities in animanga. Many users started brigading the subreddit, which resulted in a loss of over 100,000 subscribers to the subreddit. Doxing against the moderators has also been reported, with at least one threatening to commit suicide, and the subreddit has been shut down for the time being.
Reddit data can help provide scientific research in various fields. For example, one of the studies showed how it can support role-based group recommendations or evaluating group stability and growth. Another study evoked a connection between cognitive and attention dynamics and the usage of online social peer production platforms, including the effects of deterioration of user performance. There is also work that studied influence of Reddit post on popularity of Wikipedia content.
Data from Reddit can also be used to assess academic publications.
The website generally lets moderators on individual subreddits make editorial decisions about what content to allow, and has a history of permitting some subreddits dedicated to controversial content. Many of the default pages are highly moderated, with the “science” subreddit banning climate change denialism, and the “news” subreddit banning opinion pieces and columns. Reddit has changed its site-wide editorial policies several times, sometimes in reaction to controversies. Reddit has had a history of giving a platform to objectionable but legal content, and in 2011, news media covered the way that jailbait was being shared on the site before the site changed their policies to explicitly ban “suggestive or sexual content featuring minors”. Following some controversial incidents of Internet vigilantism, Reddit introduced a strict rule against the publication of non-public personally-identifying information via the site (colloquially known as doxxing). Those who break the rule are subject to a site-wide ban, and their posts and even entire communities may be removed for breaking the rule.
In February 2013, Betabeat published a post that recognized the influx of multinational corporations like Costco, Taco Bell, Subaru, and McDonald’s posting branded content on Reddit that was made to appear as if it was original content from legitimate Reddit users. PAN Communications wrote that marketers want to “infiltrate the reddit community on behalf of their brand,” but emphasized that “self-promotion is frowned upon” and Reddit’s former director of communications noted that the site is “100 percent organic.” She recommended that advertisers design promotions that “spark conversations and feedback.” She recommended that businesses use AMAs to get attention for public figures but cautioned “It is important to approach AMAs carefully and be aware that this may not be a fit for every project or client.” Nissan ran a successful branded content promotion offering users free gifts to publicize a new car, though the company was later ridiculed for suspected astroturfing when the CEO only answered puff piece questions on the site. Taylor described these situations as “high risk” noting: “We try hard to educate people that they have to treat questions that may seem irreverent or out of left field the same as they would questions about the specific project they are promoting.”
Reddit’s users tend to be more privacy-conscious than on other websites, often using tools like AdBlock and proxies, and they dislike “feeling manipulated by brands” but respond well to “content that begs for intelligent viewers and participants.” Lauren Orsini writes in ReadWrite that “Reddit’s huge community is the perfect hype machine for promoting a new movie, a product release, or a lagging political campaign” but there is a “very specific set of etiquette. Redditors don’t want to advertise for you, they want to talk to you.” Journalists have used the site as a basis for stories, though they are advised by the site’s policies to respect that “reddit’s communities belong to their members” and to seek proper attribution for people’s contributions.
Reddit announced that they would begin using VigLink to redirect affiliate links in June 2016.
Since 2017, Reddit has partnered with companies to host sponsored AMAs and other interactive events, increased advertising offerings, and introduced efforts to work with content publishers.
In 2018, Reddit hired Jen Wong as COO, responsible for the company’s business strategy and growth, and introduced native mobile ads. Reddit opened a Chicago office to be closer to major companies and advertising agencies located in and around Chicago. In 2019, Reddit hired former Twitter ad director Shariq Rizvi as its vice president of ad products and engineering.