What is Reddit

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Ross Jukes
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Last updated: May 22, 2024
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Reddit is a community-driven social platform where users can share links, news, images, and discussions across niche communities called subreddits. Known as the “front page of the internet”, Reddit has become a go-to destination for entertainment, information and online discourse.

The History and Growth of Reddit

Reddit was founded in 2005 by University of Virginia roommates Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian. The initial idea was simple – allow people to share interesting links and allow the community to upvote the best ones to the top. 

This user-generated and crowdsourced content model based on community approval quickly gained traction. Reddit officially launched in 2006 and saw rapid growth in its early years. 

Some key events and milestones in Reddit’s history include:

  • 2005 – Founded by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian
  • 2006 – Acquired by Condé Nast Publications
  • 2007 – Over 1 million monthly visitors
  • 2009 – Launched Reddit Gold member program
  • 2010 – Over 1 billion page views per month
  • 2011 – Became an independent entity from Condé Nast
  • 2012 – Rolled out subreddits feature
  • 2013 – Over 2 billion monthly page views 
  • 2014 – Over 5 billion monthly page views
  • 2015 – Raised $50M in funding at a $500M valuation
  • 2016 – Launched Reddit mobile apps
  • 2017 – Over 330 million monthly active users
  • 2021 – Raised $410M funding at $10B valuation 
  • 2022 –  Over 57 million daily active users
  • 2023 – 520M valuation
  • 2024 – Redditors created over 4.4 billion pieces of content

Originally owned by Condé Nast, Reddit spun off as an independent company in 2011. The platform continued increasing its user base, engagement, and cultural significance over the following decade. 

As of 2022, Reddit ranks among the top 20 websites in the world with over 50 million daily active users and hundreds of thousands of active communities. It calls itself “the front page of the internet” due to the viral reach of its user-submitted content. In 2024, Reddit is the seventh most popular website in America and the twenty-ninth most viewed across the globe. It ranks eighth in terms of US social media engagement as well.

How Reddit Works

At its core, Reddit enables users to submit posts containing text, links, images, or videos. Other users in the community can then upvote, downvote, and comment on the posts. Through this crowdsourced voting, the most popular and engaging content gets amplified and rises to the top.

Users who submit posts or write comments that get many upvotes can gain “karma” points and badges, incentivizing high-quality contributions. Moderators help enforce rules and community norms. Registered users can customize their experience by joining specific subreddits focused on certain topics.

Anonymity is permitted on the platform to encourage free expression. Mobile apps like Reddit for iOS and Android make it easy to access the site on smartphones and devices on the go.

Some of the key components that make Reddit work include:

  • Subreddits – Themed communities centered on specific topics that users can join. e.g. r/news, r/gaming, r/food.
  • Upvotes & Downvotes – Enable users to democratically rate content based on quality and relevance.
  • Karma – A scoring system that rewards users for well-received contributions. 
  • Awards – Virtual badges that users can gift posts and comments as a reward.
  • Anonymity – Users can remain anonymous with pseudonyms. Protects privacy.
  • Moderators – Volunteers who monitor subreddits, manage rules, and enforce etiquette. 
  • Reddit AMAs – “Ask Me Anything” question and answer sessions with public figures.

This model of user-generated content and community curation gives Reddit its editorial independence and massive breadth of content catering to myriad interests.

Benefits and Positive Aspects of Reddit

Some of the key benefits Reddit provides as an online community platform include:

Access to niche communities – Reddit spans an incredibly diverse range of communities on any conceivable topic. Join subreddits related to your interests.

Crowdsourced information – The platform’s scale and engaged users enable crowdsourcing everything from advice to current events and breaking news.

AnonymityUsers can operate anonymously with pseudonyms. This facilitates the open sharing of thoughts, experiences, and perspectives without needing to reveal your real identity.

Trend exposure – Reddit offers a pulse on viral topics, news, memes, and movements happening online well before the mainstream.

Variety of viewpoints– The diversity of subreddits fosters exposure to different ideologies, cultural perspectives, and schools of thought.

Strong sense of community – Users develop a strong sense of community in the subreddit groups centered around niche interests. 

Platform for self-expression – Reddit provides an outlet for individuals to express themselves through posts, art, discussions, and other contributions.

Knowledge sharing – The platform allows the discovery of new skills, facts, life wisdom, and expertise through the crowdsourced exchange of information.

Entertainment – Reddit offers an addictive stream of entertaining content from humor to captivating stories and lighthearted community engagement.

Criticisms and Controversies Surrounding Reddit

For all its benefits, Reddit has faced scrutiny and controversies around its content policies, moderation challenges, privacy practices, and freedom of expression versus safety:

  • Misinformation – False or misleading information can spread readily on Reddit forums before fact-checking occurs.
  • Toxicity – Harassment, bullying, and negative “mob mentality” bandwagon piles on affect parts of Reddit’s communities.
  • Extremism – Hate groups and extreme ideologies have found a haven in some subreddits where content moderation is lax.
  • Witch hunts – Reddit users have wrongly accused and targeted innocents in vigilante “witch hunts” causing real-world damage.
  • Celebrity privacy – Leaks of private celebrity photos and confidential information have sparked controversies.
  • Censorship debates – Banning toxic communities has initiated debates over free speech versus censorship.
  • Commercialization – Concerns exist over maintaining Reddit’s independence versus profit incentives.

Moderating a decentralized, pseudo-anonymous platform focused on open discourse poses challenges. Reddit continually works to balance free speech values with safety and ethical considerations.

Is Reddit Safe or Appropriate for Kids and Teens?

Reddit requires users to be at least 13 years old to create an account, in accordance with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). However, Reddit notes that the default experience is not tailored for individuals under 18 given the unfiltered content.

Parents are advised to supervise their minor teens’ usage of Reddit and enable NSFW (Not Safe For Work) filters to hide inappropriate content. Ultimately, determining what level of Reddit access is appropriate depends on the child’s maturity level and the family’s risk comfort.

How Do Businesses, Brands, and Celebrities Leverage Reddit?

Reddit provides unique opportunities for companies, brands, organizations and public figures to engage with target communities and new audiences in an authentic way. Some ways they leverage Reddit include:

Market research – Gaining insights into what consumers are interested in or concerned about within their industry.

Community engagement – Posting on subreddits related to their products or mission to have genuine conversations. 

AMAs – Hosting Ask Me Anything sessions to allow the public to directly query celebrities and business leaders.

Customer feedback – Soliciting feedback from Reddit’s engaged user base to improve products and services.

Trend tracking – Monitoring relevant subreddits and discussions for trending topics about their brand or competitors. 

Promotions and contests – Organizing special events, giveaways or partnerships with influential Redditors to raise awareness.

Recruiting – Posting job openings in niche profession subreddits interested in opportunities.

Crisis monitoring – Tracking Reddit discussions during organizational crises for real-time public sentiment and commentary.

Used strategically, Reddit provides a bounty of consumer insights and transparency around brand perception. But inauthentic promotion or spam risks backlash from Reddit’s discerning user base.

The Role of Reddit in Cryptocurrency and Investing

With its decentralized, anonymous structure mirroring cryptocurrency ethos, Reddit has developed into a major hub for crypto trading discussions, news, analysis, memes, and debate.

Some ways Reddit intersects with the crypto and investing worlds include:

  • Niche subreddits – Active crypto-specific communities like r/cryptocurrency and r/bitcoin foster deep discussion on coins, trends, adoption, and more.
  • Real-time discourse – The site’s instant interactions allow faster dissemination of breaking crypto news, rumors, events, and market speculation.
  • Beginner questions – Crypto newbies can get advice from experienced users in a casual environment as they learn the ropes.
  • Sentiment tracking – Monitoring overall sentiment on subreddits can help anticipate shifts in crypto market cycles and investor psychology.
  • Influencer engagement – Allows crypto insiders, developers, innovators, and investors to directly interface with the public.
  • Memes and humor – Crypto memes and humor spread rapidly on Reddit, highlighting the cultural side of decentralized assets.
  • Raising awareness – Cryptocurrency projects can access Reddit’s large audience interested in crypto ideas to generate buzz and recognition.

Overall, Reddit provides a fertile landscape for crypto to thrive on – aligned values, niche communities, transparency, and reach. It will likely continue growing as a crypto information hub as adoption increases.

Is Reddit Social Media?

Reddit occupies an undefined grey zone when it comes to classifications – it has elements of social media but differs in some fundamental ways from mainstream social networks:

Emphasis on communities over personal identity – The focus is on shared interests rather than profiles of individuals and their connections.

No social graph – Reddit lacks a social graph like friend networks and followers that define major social platforms. Interactions are pseudonymous. 

Anonymity permitted – Users can hide their real identities with screen names in contrast to platforms built on authentic identity.

Text and link-focused – Reddit centers around text discussions, links, and information rather than photos, videos, and visual content emphasis.

Niche communities – Subreddits create niche spaces rather than a universal feed of everyone’s updates like Facebook or Twitter.

So while Reddit enables social interaction and community, its model varies from conventional social media focused on friendship networks and personal life sharing. Reddit’s structure has both benefits and drawbacks.

Reddit’s Governance and Business Model

Reddit operates as an independent company, raising over $500 million in funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, Fidelity, and Tencent. Co-founder Alexis Ohanian’s VC firm Initialized Capital is also a major shareholder.

Reddit leverages a hybrid governance model with elements of democracy and hierarchy:

  • Employees and leaders manage day-to-day decisions, strategy, and operations.
  • Users propose and vote on some guidelines and policies via petitions and moderator consensus.
  • Thousands of volunteer moderators custom-govern individual subreddits.
  • A Board of Directors offers guidance and accountability for executives.  
  • To make money, Reddit relies on an advertising-based business model including: 
  • Selling promoted posts and ads targeted to users based on their interests and subreddit activity
  • Premium memberships like Reddit Gold that offer enhanced features 
  • Serving contextual ads based on keywords in discussions

Reddit faces the challenge of maximizing revenue while preserving user experience. Expanding its business model may prove crucial to its long-term outlook.

Reddit’s Impact on Internet Culture and Society

As one of the internet’s most popular and far-reaching hubs of user-generated content, Reddit has had significant cultural influence in various ways:

Viral phenomenon launchpad – Reddit has catapulted many now-mainstream memes and trends into the public consciousness like Doge, AMAs, and Reaction GIFs. The platform’s crowdsourced model serves as an incubator for viral phenomena. 

News and events portal – Major world events like COVID-19, social movements, wars, and disasters often spread quickly on Reddit through first-hand accounts, images and videos. This offers a real-time portal into global happenings.

Hub for Internet subcultures – Reddit has fostered devoted communities for endless Internet subcultures like furries, fantasy sports fans, gamers, cryptocurrency enthusiasts, conspiracy theorists and every other niche imaginable. 

Human interest spectrum – Through subreddits on relationships, parenting, illness, everyday experiences and more, Reddit has highlighted the full humanity of its users in relatable ways.

Controversial communities gatekeeper – Reddit has hosted controversial groups centered on extremist ideologies like Men’s Rights, White Nationalism, and political extremism by allowing essentially any community that does not directly violate policies.

For better or worse, a model for online communities – Reddit pioneered core concepts like upvotes, sub-communities, text and link-based sharing, and anonymity which were later adopted by forums, message boards, and social platforms.

Overall, Reddit showcases both the boundless creativity and seedy underside of internet culture, reflecting the best and worst of society as a whole. It continues to encapsulate the inherent promises and perils of online communities built on free expression.

Innovations and Changes to Reddit Over Time

Although Reddit’s core mechanism has stayed consistent since 2005, it has evolved with new features and innovations:

  • Subreddits – The subreddit functionality allowing niche communities was introduced in 2008, enabling Reddit to scale up massively.
  • Reddit Mobile Apps – Native iOS and Android apps launched in 2016 helped Reddit expand beyond the desktop and appeal to on-the-go users.
  • Reddit Live – Introduced in 2017, Reddit Live allows users to broadcast live content and discussions in real-time.
  • Reddit Chat – Following messaging products like Discord, Reddit launched its own real-time chat in 2017.
  • New Profiles – In 2017, customizable user profiles were added, enhancing individual expression.
  • Reddit Redesign – A major site redesign in 2018 modernized the dated UI with card-based feeds and responsive design.
  • Reddit Talk – Live audio chat rooms were added in 2021 to enable more human conversations. 
  • Powerups – An evolution of Premium memberships that provide perks and features for subreddits. 

Ongoing development of community features remains a priority as Reddit aims to boost engagement and retention.

Reddit’s User Demographics and Statistics

Some key statistics about Reddit’s global demographics and user base include:

  • 2.306 billion monthly active users (2024) 
  • 57 million daily active users (2023) 
  • 54% of users are in the United States
  • The 18-29 age group comprises the majority (~70%) of users
  • Over 100,000 active subreddits 
  • 83% of Reddit users access via mobile 
  • 1.7 billion comments per year
  • Peak of 5.5 billion upvotes on a single post (Ask Me Anything by Barack Obama)
  • 10th most visited website globally 
  • Most used social media sites among higher-income households making over $75k.
  • Largest subreddits include r/funny, r/AskReddit, r/gaming, r/aww, r/pics.

So the typical Redditor tends to be a young, male American accessing the platform on their phone for entertainment, humor, or knowledge exchange. But overall demographics are broadening over time.

How Does Reddit Compare to Other Social Platforms? 

While unique in many regards, Reddit occupies a space alongside other major social platforms:

Reddit vs. Facebook – Facebook is centered around friends and family sharing personal life updates. Reddit focuses on anonymous hobby and interest communities.

Reddit vs. Twitter – Twitter operates as a public microblogging platform. Reddit discussions occur in semi-private subreddits. 

Reddit vs. Quora – Quora is a knowledge-sharing Q&A platform. Reddit crowdsources information more broadly.

Reddit vs. Discord – Discord provides private real-time chat servers for gaming and communities. Reddit fosters public forums and discussions. 

Reddit vs. 4chan – 4chan is an anonymous imageboard while Reddit revolves around aggregating links, text and discussions.

So while social in nature, Reddit differentiates itself from mainstream social media in key aspects like anonymity and community-first focus. However, it faces some competitive overlap with other discussion platforms.

Conclusion

In summary, Reddit operates as a unique hybrid discussion forum, interest hub and social community platform empowering crowdsourced content sharing and debate. 

Its foundation around user-generated links and discussions differentiates Reddit from conventional social networks. The ability to join niche communities provides an engaging way to explore hobbies, knowledge and subcultures.

But Reddit contends with challenges around content moderation, privacy protections, and mitigating abuses inherent to pseudo-anonymous models with limited oversight.

Overall, Reddit carved an indelible place in online culture by fostering the passions and discourse of internet communities worldwide. It pioneered key user engagement concepts that transformed social platforms.

The platform’s continuing mission centers on optimizing technology to strengthen positive communities aligned with humanity’s aspirations. Reddit provides a one-of-a-kind window into what occupies the minds of internet denizens ranging from our highest hopes to our most controversial flaws.

FAQs

Is Reddit Profitable? 

Yes, Reddit monetizes through advertising and premium memberships to turn a profit – the company generated over $100 million in revenue in 2019.

However, Reddit has not yet proven hugely profitable compared to other major social media giants due to its focus on the user experience over revenue thus far. Part of the challenge lies in monetizing Reddit’s model without compromising the value it provides users.

But with 52 million daily active users and continued growth, Reddit has sizable revenue potential, especially for an independent social company.

Is Reddit Owned by Google or Facebook?

No, Reddit remains an independent entity and has not been owned by Google, Facebook, or other tech giants, despite some smaller acquisition offers. 

In fact, Reddit promotes itself as an alternative to the major centralized social networks – a differentiated community-focused platform resisting consolidation.

However, tech conglomerates like Tencent, Microsoft, and Amazon have made venture investments into Reddit which helped fund its growth.

Did Reddit Remove the Dislike Button?

No, Reddit has not removed the downvote button, a core element of its crowdsourced upvoting/downvoting mechanism for user-rated content.

However, individual subreddits can choose to hide the downvote button using CSS tricks, especially when downvoting is being abused or weaponized in the community. But this only changes the visible UI.

Is Reddit Dying or Losing Users?

No indicators suggest Reddit is currently declining – in fact, the platform continues to grow its userbase, engagement metrics, and mainstream recognition over time.

However, some argue the large influx of new mainstream users threatens to deteriorate the offbeat nature of discussion and communities that make Reddit unique. Others criticize Reddit as becoming too corporatized and sanitized.

But for now, the data reflects steady growth in Reddit’s popularity and sticky retention habits, though inevitably challenges in sustaining culture arise as communities scale up.

Can You Make Money on Reddit?

Yes, active Reddit users can potentially make money in several ways, including:

  • Advertising or marketing businesses
  • Selling relevant products or services 
  • Promoting affiliate links and partnerships  
  • Tipping or donations in cryptocurrencies
  • Reselling Reddit accounts
  • Participating in market research activities
  • Getting hired by Reddit or community members

But most who try to exploit or spam Reddit solely for money-making risk being banned for violating promotion rules. Engaging organically and adding value is crucial.

Is Reddit Safe to Browse Without an Account?

Yes, Reddit content can be viewed safely in “incognito” mode without even needing an account. But you won’t be able to post, comment, or vote without registering an account.

Viewing Reddit anonymously reduces privacy risks. But the downside is the lack of customization and community benefits of an account.

Is There a Reddit API? 

Yes, Reddit offers a robust public API that allows building apps and bots using Reddit data.

For example, Reddit’s API enables the creation of bots that can automatically post content, moderate subreddits, and more. The API provides programmatic access to read and interact with Reddit in automated ways.

Some limitations exist to prevent spam and abuse. API access requires going through an application process.

Can You Delete Your Reddit Account? 

Yes, Reddit allows permanently deleting your account. You lose access to the account and all its content. 

Reddit also offers a temporary 30-day deactivate option which hides your profile and username but retains the ability to reactivate the account. 

Full deletion is irreversible – all user data like posts, comments, and karma is removed and irretrievable. 

From a regulatory and legal perspective, Reddit falls into a gray area but likely meets the general definition of a social media platform due to enabling public social networking interactions.

However, anonymity and lack of persistent social connections differentiate Reddit from more traditional social media like Facebook centered around authentic identity and friend networks.

Overall, regulations around social media are still evolving and take a principles-based approach. So Reddit is likely subject to social media laws, but its model poses interesting nuances.

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Ross Jukes
Ross Jukes
Ross Jukes is an accomplished American copywriter with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing. Based in the United States, Ross is a language expert, fluent in English and specializes in creating compelling and engaging content. With years of experience in the industry, he has honed his skills in various forms of writing, including advertising, marketing, and web content. Ross's creativity and keen eye for detail have made him a valuable asset in the field of copywriting, where he continues to excel and innovate.

Why Trust Us

Our editorial policy emphasizes accuracy, relevance, and impartiality, with content crafted by experts and rigorously reviewed by seasoned editors for top-notch reporting and publishing standards.

Disclosure
Purchases via our affiliate links may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you, and by using this site, you agree to our terms and privacy policy.

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