Never has a subtitle been more accurate than Reddit’s tagline, “the front page of the internet”. The social news and entertainment website gathers content from its users, which can then vote submissions up or down and determine whether they reach the website’s front page. Users can also comment on posts, and each comment can be “upvoted” or “downvoted” in its turn.
Reddit started life in 2005, founded by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian who secured funding from Y Combinator. The website was bought by Conde Nast Publications a year later, for a figure estimated at between $10 million to $20 million but it has been operating independently since 2011.
The name Reddit can be understood as both a blend of the words “read” and “edit”, as well as a pun on the phrase “I read it”. Its users are known as redditors, a shortened version of Reddit editors.
Well known for its championing of free speech and diverse content, Reddit has been involved in various charity fundraisers throughout the years, as well as joining a campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) by observing a 12-hour blackout in January 2012.
The site is organised in over 5,000 topic-specific sections called subreddits. One of the sections that has received the most media attention is IAmA, a subreddit where users can open “ask me anything” (AMA) threads and answer questions from the community. The list of famous names that have taken part in IAmA includes Bill Gates, Stephen Colbert, Morgan Freeman and Barack Obama, who answered questions from Reddit users during the 2012 election campaign. The website is an open source project, and is free to use. However, a premium membership system called Reddit Gold was introduced in 2010 at the cost of $3.99 a month. Among others, Reddit Gold members receive notifications when their username is included in comments, have access to beta features, do not see any advertising on the site, and get special deals with Reddit partners which cover market segments from fashion to food and IT services.
According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, 6 per cent of internet users have a Reddit account. The majority of Reddit users are male, have some college education and are more likely to live in urban or suburban areas.
Reddit’s championing of free speech and impressive philanthropic victories have not saved the website from its share of issues and negative news appearances. In the history of Reddit, the website came under fire for its lax rules about content like allowing questionable “jailbait” material (which is now banned), and more recently the internet witch-hunt after the Boston Marathon bombings when some users incorrectly identified potential suspects.
However, it remains an active community with a great deal of power over what becomes famous online. Many viral videos or commercial campaigns start to gain prominence online on the website, and its quick turnover of posts and links makes it an efficient news aggregator. If there’s one website that can wholeheartedly claim to be the front page of the internet, this is it.