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Reddit: One of social media's oldest companies is also its most undervalued (latecheckout.substack.com)
122 points by hubraumhugo 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 164 comments





I'm sure George Carlin would love knowing one of his quotes prefaced an article about how a company can squeeze more advertising money out of it's user base.

While I'm still complaining:

"You now need an email to sign up..." You don't, you can just click 'next' without entering one.

"The mobile experience was improved" It wasn't. It's designed to be so frustrating you just download the app.


> "The mobile experience was improved" It wasn't. It's designed to be so frustrating you just download the app.

This is an absolute joke yeah. The page even has a button overlay "This looks better in the app" which I would take as an insult if I was their web dev but each to their own.


Sometimes the click detection on the continue button is off so it pretends I clicked "Open in app" which is beyond frustrating.

I would just use another website but I can't find one that has a similar mixture of cat gifs, old memes, far left propaganda, and occasional science news.


> Sometimes the click detection on the continue button is off

The way that it only does that with that button really makes it hard for me to believe it's not intentional



Anyone why they try to get users into their app so hard? I mean if people are logging anyway tracking them is feasible on the web too.

Monetization.

You can't use an ad blocker (easily) in an app, so they get to show you ads.

If you decide to buy reddit gold (or whatever they're calling it now), then they get the money from that instead.


It's Reddit premium now, and they more than doubled the price :(

Yes, it's because an app lets them get more information about you than a website. Even if you don't give an app any permissions (which many people will do anyway).

Settings on the mobile page has an option to switch off "Ask to open in app". I don't see the "Use app" button now.

It pretty regularly forgets that setting for me.

> The page even has a button overlay "This looks better in the app" which I would take as an insult if I was their web dev but each to their own

If you're a web dev working on the Reddit redesign I assume you're long past caring or any form of shame.


+1 on the mobile, the constant push and underhanded tactics to get me to download app is exceedingly annoying. Reddit is not the only guilty one there, though feel more insistent than many.

The situation with mobile reddit got out of control. It is impossible to browse anything without the app unless it is a post on r/popular or r/all.

Out of spite I downloaded 'a' free reddit client and bought the full version. The constant stream of useless notifications of the official app is just disgusting.


Yeah, when they follow Twitter and lock down third party apps will end half my Reddit usage and turning off old Reddit the other half.

I would have said in the past that users like me who are resistant to introducing engagement mechanics/monetisation are why they're valued less than the likes of Twitter but recent stats I saw indicated old Reddit was like 15% of desktop users and the official app also had the majority of mobile users so looks like their plan to wait our the dilution of the long term user base is working so maybe that all changes in a few years.

The unbundling suggestions seem like it'd hurt the long tail, a lot of the value that Reddit has to me is the smaller specialised communities which are able to get users because people can eventually get introduced to smaller subreddits from larger subreddits. Cut off that traffic growth path and many of these communities have a much reduced reason to set up on Reddit Vs elsewhere.

The suggestions to move the focus from subreddits to users - it's something Reddit are subtly trying with redesigned profiles and more emphasis on people posting to profiles or following them, but to me it seems counter productive to what I like about Reddit. A subreddit can be kept on topic in a way a user cannot, and actually in many social circles there are pressures on people to make their views known on e.g. politics in twitter, where staying on whatever topic is actually discouraged


I too am one of those users. I migrated to hackernews, but as you said, reddit offers much more in terms of communities around topics. These communities are absolute goldmines and, to me, it appears that they are the remnants of late 90s to late 2000s internet. I really liked the warez, infosec and hacker* communities of those times, unfortunately, I was too young and to be honest, I haven't gotten around to looking for such communities again.

Reddit is a monetization of Usenet.

The farther they drift away from admitting that, the more tenuous their value proposition is going to be.


> but recent stats I saw indicated old Reddit was like 15% of desktop users

I have to believe that's the vast majority of the active userbase, and that Reddit just gets a lot of one off visits from Google search referrals.


I've no idea what the official app is like, but they're pushing it so hard that I can't imagine it's for my benefit :)

My cynicism backed hypothesis is that they want telemetry, location tracking and all that kind of stuff. Also knowing Tencent has a stake on Reddit [1], I am even more inclined to avoid it.

[1] https://www.fool.com/investing/2019/02/08/tencent-invests-so...


I'm not a heavy reddit user - I don't subscribe to any subreddits or anything like that. But I do have an account and I occasionally post and comment.

I had the mobile app installed for a few months and I thought it was pretty good. I uninstalled it because I was using it to kill time on my phone, and it was becoming habitual (nothing going on? open reddit app). My solution to those types of things is to cut the cord, and I don't ever miss them.

I would call it an upside actually, that I don't even want to browse the site on my phone.


I just assumed because most people don't be able to block ads. Is the app anything more than a webview that doesn't get sent the 'make it crappy' parts from the server?

https://old.reddit.com is still out there and everything seems to work

Everything seems to work on the surface, until you actually start using it.

Many newer features are half-implemented or not implemented at all.

Some features which previously worked are broken.

The setting for preference of the old.reddit interface is not stable, and gets reset sometimes.

Even when the setting is preserved, there are nag messages to switch to the new one and/or the app.

Also, I think just calling it "old." feels a bit condescending and patronizing to the user. It certainly communicates that its days are numbered, so why would I want to invest any more of my time into it?


>Some features which previously worked are broken.

Examples?

>Also, I think just calling it "old." feels a bit condescending and patronizing to the user. It certainly communicates that its days are numbered, so why would I want to invest any more of my time into it?

I guess they could call it "classic", but that'd be longer to type in the address bar.


>Examples?

Image galleries.

Mod mail, rules list, and other mod features.

A few others I can't remember and don't care enough to go digging for.

Generally speaking, in the last couple of years, the more I use reddit, the less I want to use it. I've been pretty involved in it for 10+ years and used to love it. Reddit used to be a pretty important part of my life. It took a long time to de-train me from coming back to it, but they've done it. I hardly ever open it anymore, and I've routed www.reddit.com to localhost so that I wouldn't end up on the new design by accident. I've only done that for less than a dozen addresses.


I've been using old.reddit.com since it was introduced, and a large fraction of that use is on mobile.

> Image galleries.

I don't have any trouble with these.

> Mod mail, rules list, and other mod features.

I don't do any moderation on reddit, so I'll take your word for it here.

The biggest, frequent pain point I have with using reddit is their v.reddit.com videos. That is a garbage experience, but from what I understand, that experience is across old and new.


>Image galleries.

seems to work fine with RES


Just use the old reddit extension for Firefox.

a) I don't use Firefox. I use a particular browser with accessibility accommodations which Firefox does not offer.

b) I doubt that the extension you reference solves most of the issues I mentioned, in particular the broken features.

c) I think beginning your advice with the word "Just" makes it sound condescending and dismissive.

Please consider reading this article: http://archive.is/J2ODQ


I'm guessing it was coming from a place of frustration, but as an impartial observer I found your response just as condescending. They should add 'a bullet-list of critiques' to the article.

Thank you for telling me, I'm going to review my post and try to improve my communication in the future.

Yes, I am quite frustrated with frequently being told that I'm using the wrong browser or have it improperly configured.


It's just a limitation of the medium, all I ask is that you call me out when I inevitably do the same. :)

I regard it as “Old Faithful”.

I was a relatively happy user of the app until they started making text blink in comments. The endless stream of awards was bad enough, but blinking text is where I draw thr line.

> The constant stream of useless notifications of the official app is just disgusting.

I cannot imagine a world where I would allow reddit to send me any push notifications ever.


It's OK on Firefox for Android if you log in.

On Android, Reddit client RedReader is a great showcase of how pleasant and responsive modern applications could be, had they not been hobbled by tracking, ads, in-app purchase nudging, useless client-server roundtrips, etc.

Minimalistic, but clear UI. Subreddits open nearly instantly. Discussion threads open instantly. Comments arranged by upvotes, not by Reddit's opaque scoring algorithm. No visual clutter. Minimal battery usage.


I've been a Sync user for years but I have a feeling that Reddit's API is going to be pulled in the not-too-distant future.

Having an ad-free, clean, sensible UI isn't aligned with their current vision.


On the bright side, for me at least, the repulsive mobile web experience has meant I spend drastically less time on Reddit.

Yes, the blocking of AskHistorians unless you install the app borders on copyright infringement IMO.

If I were that subreddit I'd have my own website with blackjack[] and ... the whole share of the ad revenue. And use the money to promote History rather than just to make Conde, or whoever's, shareholders more wealthy.

* but not actually blackjack, gambling advertising is awful.


> the blocking of AskHistorians

What are you referring to here?


When I visit with a browser on my phone it says that AskHistorians is only accessible via the app, unless you use old.reddit.com or some other route.

> the constant push and underhanded tactics to get me to download app

The worst one I ever saw said something like "Use the app to avoid tracking"

Like how fucking retarded are you? How is the tracking not 10000 times worse on the app, you lying assholes!?


I don't even use Reddit on mobile, solely because of this.

Growth hacker of 8 years here.

This smells like the brilliant plan of endless A/B testing that a unicorn did once, wrote about it on their company blog once it was used up, then everyone else followed.

These are all growth 'levers' which on paper can drastically improve metrics which is what is needed to get those crazy valuations and huge funding rounds. In reality they make the experience poor for the user, however, outside of the tech world most people are not bothered by these tricks.


The mobile experience is atrocious. It's exactly what happens when you optimize for short-term value. Forcing people to download the app when they clearly don't want to is a great way to lose long-term users.

I hate the new layout. I find the video player abysmal and I loathe the mobile experience.

Some of the content is still very good, but I feel like it's lessening as the anti-user hostility intensifies. It's a damn shame.


Worst is the lack of attention paid to saved posts, you can only scroll back to latest 1000 until you un-save or offload it you can't view older saved posts

At least on iOS the Apollo app is a true alternative to the reddit site/etc

https://i.reddit.com is the old mobile layout, and it still works fine for basic browsing and commenting.

rif is still the better app, as is offline reddit.

On iOS the Apollo app is truly fantastic. Also one of the best iOS apps I’ve used in general in terms of user experience.

I use teddit.net now. Especially on mobile. Reddit has fallen pretty badly :(

The subversive marketing and political astroturfing really annoy me as a long time reddit user.

Nowadays there are companies which sport hundreds or thousands of alt accounts to drive marketing or political agendas. Posts like the Enchroma (scam) advertising on r/pics last week are just the obvious tip of the ice berg.

Companies share post templates to just fill and spread in targeted subreddits. Many mods are paid for channeling the "right" content just like Instagram/YT influencers are paid for product placements.

It's not some hobbyist forum for the more popular subs. It's a marketing engine.


The real money is in capturing subreddit moderators.

It’s an open secret in the PR industry that if you can get moderators of popular subreddits (for your market) on your side, then it’s easy to throw the conversation in your favor.

Moderators are the invisible hand the sway the conversation on Reddit. They have immense power to remove posts and comments that they disagree with.

PR companies are more than happy to arrange for subreddit moderators to receive free product, chats with company executives, even trips for office or factory tours. It makes the moderators feel like they’re “in” with the company, and they began moderating accordingly.

In some cases, popular subreddit moderators simply start their own businesses selling to particular subreddits. Some of them truly are honest, but others are looking to make a quick buck selling courses, putting affiliate links in subreddit Wikis and other activities.


>The real money is in capturing subreddit moderators.

Right. This also leads to some of the clearest evidence that Reddit (the corporation) isn't interested in actually being a discussion board, but has completely given itself over to leveraging its user base for money.

Despite years of issues with subreddit mods selling out, taking over, censoring users, in general behaving badly and a complete lack of transparency, Reddit has changed nothing about how that system works.


> Reddit has changed nothing about how that system works

I'd say they have changed for the worse. In recent years they have quarantined or banned many even remotely controversial subreddits. Reddit admins are increasingly forcing SV's political ideology onto it's users. Ramping up censorship will be the end of Reddit, as users leave to look for alternatives.


If they did, then they would have to pay them for their free labor and thats a can they do not want to open.

In the semi-official national subreddits for e.g. small-ish European countries you mostly see politics being pushed from moderators rather than products. I've grown quite suspicious of that lately, for the same reason.

All the $LOCATION subs have a strong political leaning, mostly in the same direction, with some $LOCATION specific variance generally permitted.

Yes, r/de for Germany is a heavily left leaning sub which routinely bans right opinion (note, I am not saying right extreme).

Don’t dare criticizing communism either, it’s especially fun having West German 18yo students yell at me for disliking socialism as a former Soviet Union citizen.


Exactly the same can be said about r/uk with it's trigger happy mods. Their bashing of "fascists" is rather ironic, considering their heavy handed tactics.

Add r/india to the list too.

The moderator problem was noticeable years ago: https://jakeseliger.com/2015/03/16/the-moderator-problem-how... and has become more evident today.

To add to your posts. Around 50 most popular sub-reddits are moderated by the same people.

I haven't read the article yet but I'm pretty sure the awful practices you and the parent post are describing are the real reasons why reddit is undervalued.

Correct that’s why I called it marketing engine. It’s not open about it though.

/r/redditminusmods

Yeah, reddit has suffered it's Eternal September several times over. The astroturfing and low value content/commentary makes the default front page with the default sub-reddits like looking at a magazine rack at the check out counter. The niche sub-reddits (non-default) are sometimes worth going to but have their own issues with being echo chambers. In either case, I've reduced my usage of the site and been looking for other alternatives (besides this one) that I can kind of get in on the ground floor with.

And in the vein of Eternal September, they're accidentally created a moat to prevent anyone from creating a board with its own unique culture because:

A) everyone assumes reddit culture is internet culture and will transplant it everywhere (see HN over the years)

B) reddit is big enough to have captured a large portion of internet discourse and therefore people who are deemed unwelcome are a significant portion of those who aren't on the platform. If you attempt to start a board, you'll quickly find that those individuals will descend on it and destroy it with hate unless you have exceptional moderation capacity.


> The subversive marketing and political astroturfing really annoy me as a long time reddit user.

It's not as if Hacker News is immune to this. Pay attention to some of the posts being pushed to the front page and the associated comments and you may notice similar shenanigans occuring here. This applies doubly so if the post is made during the weekend.[1]

Considering the fact that many users on HN are reddit transplants, there is the inevitable spillover effect. Comments of the lowbrow variety have become more commonplace (e.g. comment threads made of low-hanging puns).

Without strict moderation, this site too will devolve. After all, you can take the redditor out of reddit but you can't take the reddit out of the redditor.

[1]: As one example, a couple weeks ago there was a new account created by a user for the sole purpose of selling their book on HN; they've only been active on that account for that one single post and (I strongly suspect) they used alts to artificially boost their post to the front page.


At least here, we can flag-kill spam. On Reddit, flags go to the moderators to deal with. I will give you that: if @dang or @sctb are paid off, we’d be in trouble.

I feel like Reddit is evolving toward convergence with a chum box. It seems as though it was intentionally designed to be vulnerable to bad faith commercial activity, and its popularity is sort of sickening. Watching a bunch of kids sink their personal cash into a moribund pink sheet stock as part of a pump and dump and the subsequent David vs Goliath astroturfing was among the most depressing things I’ve ever witnessed on the internet.

What is Reddit's value? There's no secret sauce, its popularity just comes from the network effect. The UI/UX post-redesign is horrible and slow, and the site is bombarded with politics and hatred.

I've had a few Reddit accounts over the years and always deleted them after a few posts. Nobody is capable of having a decent debate without ad hominems, strawman arguments, and downvote bombing. Any opinion against the grain will be silenced and probably just banned. For this reason I actually think Reddit is one of the worse social media sites. I only use it to consume content now and try to stay away from the main subreddits.


Reddit is the only all encompassing hobbyist forum still remaining on the internet.

I follow my favorite youtubers on their subreddit. I have spent countless hours discussing manga, cars, soccer, politics (in a civil way), find prog bands, food science and so much more.

I can say this confidently: "None of those activities would be as much fun if I did not have my fellow redditors to enjoy it with."

The main subreddits are trash, but that's the point. Reddit might just be able to rapidly scale up to letting normies in, without letting the first-adopters feel like reddit has lost its charm. Specifically, there will be 2 reddits. One would be the front page with a tiktok-esque stream of memes, outrage and short videos; and the other would be the niche subreddits that function similarly to hacker news in terms of strict moderation and deliberate inaccessibility.

Now I am not sure if this genius of reddit is intentional or if the founders stumbled into what is probably the only survival plan for a business where scaling up inevitably leads to a huge drop in the value proposition of the platform itself.

Conde Nast made an incredible acquisition; and not having the market pressures of a public company might have something to do with Reddit's success.

_________

edit: because I must shill for them some more

Reddit is also THE PLACE on the internet for the best surreal humour and organic decentralized art as social experiences. Subreddits like r/196, r/2meirl42meirl4meirl and r/kenm are completely inaccessible without knowing the meta-story around them, but have me rolling on the floor like nothing else. r/place is the most well known reddit decentralized art experience, but r/hqg, and r/youdontsurf create humor and art from a constrained format that can be so meta that the entire front page could be purely self-referential.


The bigger question is: why must hobbyist forums be all-encompassing? Setting up a phpbb is trivial, so what is the advantage to me the user having a single identity linking my professional conversations about software with my more casual conversations about unicycle rally racing?

I can think of many reasons, but I'll limit them to:

1. visibility - it is easier for users to find the community on reddit. Both from search engines, and "organically" on reddit.

2. foot traffic - users don't need to remember that you exist to visit, once a sub is in a user's feed, they will see all of the new posts.

3. Setting up a server and installing forum software might be "easy," but it is still much more difficult than setting up a subreddit.

The only real benefit to setting up a phpbb server is that you might get some revenue from ad traffic once the userbase grows up some.


I think the difficulty in setting up a server and installing forum software is eclipsed by the time, effort, and liability stress from moderating the content and dealing with illegal or undesireable content / malware.

To me, one of the impressive things about Reddit is how they have managed to be a mainstream site with porn, and how they manage to keep it off their front page.


Probably true, but people don't learn that until after they've set up a subreddit and it's gotten somewhat successful.

For their own site, they're immediately hit with a wall of pain as they try to figure out what all they need to know just to get their first user. And there's nothing driving those users to their new forum, either.


Convenience and consistency.

I was a big user of forums before reddit, and I am glad it has centralized.

IMO, it is pretty obvious. It is the same reason any social media website has 1 identity for everything on it.

> linking professional conversations and casual conversations

You know you can alt accounts right ?


“Having a single identity for all of your interests is more convenient” and “you can have multiple identities to keep your interests separate” seem like pretty contradictory statements.

Yes they are, and yes some users want both at the same time. Users are complicated.

As a fellow redditor, I just wanted to say that your final paragraph perfectly puts to words my enjoyment of those wildly strange and wonderfully creative self-referential subreddits. So, thanks, for your words.

:)

I edited it in later. I felt an urge to say it, because it is an aspect of reddit that often goes unappreciated.


I think the easiest way to implement the “2 Reddits” idea would to just have old.reddit.com’s contents be exclusive to old Reddit. I doubt many long time users like the facebook-ish UI which is designed to serve you full screen ads

How much value can you get our of Reddit heavily depends on which subreddits you subscribe to. r/news or r/politics is a cesspool.

r/askhistorians is pure gold. Hobbyist subreddits are extremely valuable - discussions are polite, to the point, high-quality posts get consistently upvoted. r/coronavirus and r/COVID19 have been pivotal in making sense of the situation in early March (though r/coronavirus turned into a parody of the former self once Covid started spreading in the US). r/nottheonion or r/gaming are often hilarious.

There are three important steps to turn Reddit into a useful tool:

- Unsubscribe from the subreddits you find toxic

- Learn to use 'Sort by Top - this week/day'

- On PC, visit old.reddit.com instead of reddit.com. On mobile, use a third-party client like RedReader or Appolo


> Hobbyist subreddits are extremely valuable

I recently subscribed to r/AskElectronics and I have been amazed at the supportiveness of the community. Every time I've posted a picture of some stupid noob mistake I made, I get a deluge of responses helping me understand in detail what I did wrong, along with some good-natured stories of people remembering when they made the same mistake. It's lovely, I'd bake every one of them a pie if I could.


> r/coronavirus and r/COVID19 have been pivotal in making sense of the situation in early March (though r/coronavirus turned into a parody of the former self once Covid started spreading in the US).

I watched this happen first hand. It went from being a solid scientific discussion and sharing of information to being another part of Reddit's control system for public opinion. It just underwent that transformation faster than most subs do because of the impetus of the pandemic.


Yeah, I do the synthesizer sub on reddit and it's pretty chill. Running / synthesizers / pianolearning have been nothing, but positive. People are on their best behavior because they don't want to ruin it or be the bad apple.

> On PC, visit old.reddit.com

There's a setting that makes it so you default to the old UI, whether you're on old.reddit.com or just reddit.com.


I know a great deal about a few topics. Based on the quality of discussion of those topics on Reddit I have zero reason to believe that any content of a deeper than "asking questions so shallow you could Google them and the blog spam sites would have the unambiguously correct answer" is of high enough quality to be trustworthy.

For really small subreddits that don't have much activity, you can access the most recent comments directly by tagging on /comments to the subreddit url, e.g. https://www.reddit.com/r/firewater/comments/

That's a new one to me, thanks.

For anyone who didn't know about the extensive rss features of reddit: https://old.reddit.com/wiki/rss


It is a good platform for hobby communities, because it is:

1. Pseudonymous

2. Location-agnostic

3. Comments are structured as a tree instead of a flattened list, and nodes at the same level are sorted by popularity

Old-school message boards met the first two requirements, but I think the third characteristic is a huge improvement over trying to pick the discussion out of the multiple simultaneous flamewars with which it was interleaved on comp.lang.lisp or any of the old phpBB. On a hobby subreddit generally the top reply and its highest-ranked comment chain are on-topic and informative.

Its biggest competition now is probably something like Facebook Groups, but Facebook is constantly trying to push you towards real-name-focused, location-aware stuff, and its implementation of a comment tree is pretty half-assed because at the end of the day it wants you scrolling a feed, not lingering on a heavily-ramified comment tree. At the moment my wife and I use Facebook for neighborhood groups and Reddit for hobby subreddits (and memes).


3 is absolutely terrible for discussion of topics with even the slightest amount of complexity and nuance to them or topics where the discussion would occur over more than a short time. You get unique top level comments but the up-voted stuff is just lowest common denominator and the tree below that initial first level winds up highly replicated. Then there's the inherent fake consensus problem of the upvote/downvote system.

I don't really think flat forum threads scale any better than a tree for replication. You'd see the same point on page 3, 5, 9, 10, 17, where people would just read the first and last pages. There would be multiple parallel quote-reply arguments with people saying the same thing.

I also just don't think your average hobby forum topic is something requiring much nuance or complexity. It's not a philosophy journal, it's someone asking a bunch of internet strangers if they've ever tried using an Arduino for hydroponics and how it went.


I have posted elsewhere about the value of Reddit. Even if you ignore the massive network effects, the main value is:

1. Sign up once, log in everywhere

2. Follow and interact with all of your communities (and groups of related communities) all on the same platform.

3. Better UX for browsing/scanning and text-oriented conversations (no avatars/signatures, collapsible threads) than traditional bulletin boards.

4. Greater sense of interactivity and participation through upvoting, with a natural flow towards posting. First you read logged out, then you make an account just to upvote and downvote a few things, and finally you make a comment or two. Again, lacking an analogue in other platforms.

No other platform has even come close to this except HN, and HN is still one community, not a network of easily-cross-linkable thousands.

To disrupt Reddit 7 years ago you just needed to recognize this and do the same thing but better. To disrupt Reddit now, IDK good luck, inertia is real.


Reddit is a good example of "tyranny by majority" in my opinion. You can see it in action with downvoting opinions people simply don't agree with. It doesn't matter if you have a dozen sources if the 51% simply downvote it for disagreeing.

And Reddit's UI design is truly terrible. I know it's for fitting in more ads, but going from seeing 20 posts per page, and an ad mixed in, to see 2 (sometimes even 1) post that may be an ad is insane.


IME reddit isn't that bad, but it is bad. I can get a good comment upvoted, but not 100% of the time. It's like 50-75% of my comments depending on the tone or disagreement.

Some really batty and bigoted stuff gets upvoted all the time, but IMO the platform is overall very left leaning. It can be pretty inconsistent.

Communities like HN are better, but elsewhere on social media it can get really bad. Digg was horrendous. I don't think I saw a single unpopular opinion not get buried into oblivion. Then I switched to reddit and it's that solid 50-75% I mentioned. You might have to pander or sugar coat it, but you can get the idea out there. It was a big improvement. I think reddit is a cesspool for other reasons.


Reddit is so popular that the “quality” of users has become very poor just by sheer virtue of the number of people using it. Also the 25-75%ile ages are probably like 17-24 so there is a good chance you’re having a conversation with actual teenagers

A low quality comment: you don't even know if it a person. In 2021 you actually need a coherent multi-paragraph post, and a lot of them, to separate a human from a bot. Presumably, there are also a tremendous amount of fake accounts regurgitating low quality information in order to help bump specific posts. That is a perverse incentive of the way their system is structured. The same can/does happen on hn but that activity has some counterbalances.

Reddit strikes me as being well in to its post-spam usenet phase. Instead of being drowned in blatant spam, it is drowned in noise.

A recurring complaint I've heard from friends - experts on narrow topics - is that particular subreddits around a given topic are just dominated with incorrect information. This isn't political. It isn't opinionated. It is topics that may have ranges of correctness, but posters are just repeating things that are completely wrong - as if they have no personal experience in the subject.

That is a big problem. If you were to look at various more political and activist subreddits (including banned ones that migrated elsewhere), the conclusion may be that many reddit user's lives are far worse off with it. When the blind are leading the blind off the side of a cliff, the outcome is predictable.


>What is Reddit's value

Reputation.

If Toyota and Kitchenaid started selling dead bloated racoons with their respective badges on them people would still be buying them 20yr from now because a bunch of people on Reddit (who already bought in based on prior Redditors' commentary) and don't want to feel like fools) told them to buy that brand.

It's no different than any other company selling out its brand name.

I fully agree that the userbase is just politness colored lipstick on the old 4chan pig (every "platform" where riff raff from one niche can easily show up and crap all over another niche has this problem) but that doesn't really impact their ability to make money as a business.


I must agree with the points on the UI/UX. I just opened the app and 95% of what I see on the screen I do not care about. The fact that only 1 list item is immediately available to me as a user is just bizzare.

https://i.imgur.com/YwHTQWa.png: I have highlighted what actually matters to me as user.

There's just so much noise in this new UI. All I want to see is the title, the source, the subreddit the post belongs to, how many comments it has, and MAYBE the upvote count. Put all the navigation stuff in a hidden drawer - it doesn't need to be on the screen all the time and let me switch off these silly awards (or at least tone them down). The rest of the screen is taken up by elements that simply don't need to be on the screen all the time. The search bar can be put in a menu to free up space for more posts. The thumbnails don't need to be there all the time. I don't need an immediately available button to buy Reddit coins / awards. The new awards system (while lucrative) is a complete eyesore and often takes up as much space (if not more) than the title of the post itself.

I cannot express how grateful I am that HN as opted to remain with this simple UI. It's all we need.


the old reddit UI is a lot better and you can still use it. The new reddit UI has been around for a while now, and I think it's actually getting slower. I really tried to like it, but I opted out a month or two ago.

Huh? Well, Reddit is a platform, not a community. A sane usage pattern is to come for a sub, create an account and immediately unsubscribe from all the other subs. I find the communities I participate in not as bad as you describe. But a community defined as "everyone who cares about politics" is simply doomed.

Now, to answer your original question: the value Reddit provides is having a single account for all my communities, instead of registering to umpteen PhpBB. This allows for a much more efficient antispam. Also more efficient ads, so they do have a business out of this.


My experience hasn't been so rough, but I agree overall. Discussions are REALLY hit or miss. I've commented a fair amount there, and some of the conversations are pretty great. It's like a 33%-33%-33%. You get a good conversation, a terrible one, or nobody notices.

I agree about reddit's value being elusive. AFAIK this is because it arguably isn't so valuable. They don't seem to monetize excessively. It's not like Facebook that really feels like an advertising and data shilling firm. There's just a jpeg on the side panel. I imagine they sell some data, maybe even pay to win? (or they will soon)

Reddit is very valuable in that it essentially controls society and "influences" people's behavior. It remains to be seen how much of that can be turned into money, and how it'll effect the site. I wouldn't be shocked to see another exodus, sale, and rebranding as a new media company, like Digg in the next 5-10 years... I wouldn't predict it, but I wouldn't be surprised either.


For me, the problem isn’t the politics. On many special-interest subreddits for various hobbies you avoid the politics almost entirely. The problem is that gradually over the years, the vast majority of people posting on Reddit have been using mobile phones.

Because mobile keyboards are so annoying to type on length on, that has resulted in posts getting shorter and shorter, down to one-line Twitter-like replies that are almost information-free and don’t provide much of the skillsharing that people used to turn to hobby forums for. If you post a couple of solid paragraphs, the same length of text that was normal on Reddit just a few years ago, you look weird and out of place among the one-line posts. You might even get some mockery: "haha wall of text bro".

I would love to leave Reddit entirely and return to the phpBB forums of yore where substantial conversation could continue. The problem is that Reddit has eaten their userbase, leaving only a handful of elderly people or cranks, and the feeling of a ghost town.


Yeah, I agree it shouldn't take you minutes to read a comment, but 0.5-2m is acceptable. You can read 3 paragraphs, get that weak shit out of here.

Then people act like they're totally pwning you by not participating in conversation (which is fine, but then just STFU). This is something I do for fun. It's a hobby, I don't care about the time. No need to be a jerk about it. They probably kick over people's sandcastles, too.


Basically everything that has a chance to show up on /r/all is trash.

Checking out what people in /r/country suggests for turists before you visit is pretty valuable. So is advice in /r/slowcooking, /r/yourhobby and so forth. Basically it allows people to create communities even if they have on technical skills.


The membership of /r/country subs skews heavily towards teenagers and people in their early twenties. They aren't a very good source of tourist advice, because they haven’t had the opportunity in their lives yet to travel much themselves. Also, they tend to be a demographic that identifies itself as cosmopolitan and English-speaking, to the point where they are often ashamed of rural and folkloric traditions that tourists would be interested in.

>Nobody is capable of having a decent debate without ad hominems, strawman arguments, and downvote bombing.

Definitely the same experience here. Holding a conversation on reddit is usually not a pleasant experience. There's tons of great information on reddit, but it's a diamond in the rough sort of situation.


The same can be said from any media that gives its user a voice, from the current website to Twitter.

> The mobile experience was improved

This has already been said, but needs it's own dedicated comment.

In isolation one might think this comment is sarcasm, but seeing it in context in the article it seems genuine enough. If so, the author has likely never used Reddit, so it's odd to be calling on them to write an article on it.

A little bit of research shows the author seems to be known for selling a few companies I've never heard of pretty early on after they've been founded, so I guess their main expertise is exits. One would still think they would've used Reddit once or twice though...


Their mobile site is now a deluge of prompts trying to get you to download their app. They've broken the ability to easily view comment threads. It is seriously such trash.

I find myself accidentally tapping something that either opens something new or closes what I was looking at. The back button behavior is bad with the post pop overs. The home page doesn't even preserve scroll position when going back from a post (Safari iOS)!

It is not a website I visit regularly anymore. Someone should do a github1s equivalent for reddit, even if it is read only.


I assume you must be talking about the mobile app, rather than the "mobile experience" of the Reddit website. And it's just occurred to me that the author may have been referring to the same.

I've never used the app but I presume it is a lot better than the mobile website.


I am definitely not talking about the mobile app. I explicitly say site. I talk about the prompts to try to get you to download the mobile app. I also reference a mobile OS and web browser. I have no idea how you could think I'm talking about the app.

> Someone should do a github1s equivalent for reddit, even if it is read only

https://teddit.net/


Anything better than https://old.reddit.com/ would, I suspect, take a lot of dev effort & maintenance

It's probably worth thinking whether it's worth replicating the entirety of reddit's functionalities or just those that matter

The mobile experience has improved for “normies” looking to consume funny pictures and videos on /r/popular, not the power users who comment or use niche subreddits.

The Reddit app’s push for live-streaming and their recent acquisition of DubSmash makes me suspect they’re looking to compete with TikTok as well.


Well, I spend most of my Internet time there but I'd say that forum web pages like that are generally overvalued, so perhaps Reddit isn't undervalued after all and other companies are overvalued. Also, their ads only work for limited type of content like software and web apps. I tried an ad for a book there once and it had zero effect. My girlfriend always receives ads for military drones by Lockheed Martin, which is strange since she's only interested in cats and r/food.

I guess one of the reasons why reddit is so popular is that it doesn't really work for this commercial stuff too well (and their website also breaks down from time to time). It's as charming as the cat gifs we watch on it.


No better place to build your own bubble and insulate yourself from any thoughts, opinions, or ideas that might make you uncomfortable.

And don’t forget the massive astroturfing, corporate bots, paid off moderators, and karma system that is designed to be addictive.

It’s definitely undervalued in terms of how great of a place it is to sow division and push people to more extreme political thoughts.


This article tantalises with the last word of its headline, "undervalued", but never rises to the challenge that word screams out.

After an entertaining George Carlin introduction, the section "r/Value" says boldy and starkly "$6 billion? That’s it?"

Sounds like $6 billion is just chump change compared to the real value of Reddit, right? I can't wait to read more...

If you make it to the last section, "r/GalaxyBrain", you come face to face with "The Galaxy Brain moves to take it to the next level"

Are you ready to go to the next level? Here it is:

"Reddit should make it easy for subreddits to pay-gate their community, sell merchandise (physical and digital), and post jobs."

That's it?

Did I miss something?


You missed the bits where Reddit should start trying to occupy the space of other content-hosting sites to generate more ad revenue and harvest more data from users.

It comes down to the fact that Reddit isn't really a social media site - it's a link aggregator with the trappings of social media, or a slightly fancier network of forums (fora? fori? I forget the declension...). I think it is perfectly valued, and fits a niche that maybe only Pinterest comes close to filling. If it tries to expand its social media elements, it will be trying to be something it isn't and users will respond accordingly (one would hope).


>fora? fori? I forget the declension...

I think it'd be "fora" in this instance. I'm judging this from the word "medium/media" and I know how many linguistic exceptions Latin had, though, so I'm probably wrong.


In this particular case, we might prefer "fororum", the genitive plural.

Ah shit, here I go back down the Latin-hole again.

Reddit's main product at this point is their userbase... information on them, the ability to influence them via echo chambers and censorship, the ability to sell things to them...

Definitely agree with a few of the suggestions in the article. Personally, the mobile-first UI changes they made a long time ago with new Reddit were so tragically bad that you could almost consider them a canary. My Reddit usage dropped significantly after that change even with old.reddit.com hanging around.

On a desktop or a laptop when you visit reddit.com it still resets to their card layout every time unless you login and you still have to click through twice to get to comments even if you explicitly click the comments link. Majority of my usage was logged out and that was not going to change.

Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook are also bad about this. Being logged out is dissatisfying on those sites, so I rarely visit them and don't like when they're returned in search results. HN, Flickr, Pluto.TV, YouTube, Zoom and others don't punish you so much for that.


Unbundling the big subreddits is an interesting idea, but further meddling with the activity of a subreddit’s valuable core users is more likely to destroy the value of that community than unlock it.

Reddit’s enduring quality comes from its supporting of a basic platform that allows continuous growth of some niche subreddits until they ‘fail’ and scare away its core users, having those core users found new niche subreddits which themselves go mainstream and ‘fail’. Rinse repeat.

r/WallStreetBets was an enormous social media success story but I have huge doubts that Reddit could give a team the job of unbundling that sub without that team poisoning the magic.

The “meaningful upgrades” I thought were pretty solid.


It's hard not to sense that Reddit's at the beginning of a (very long, slow) decline in relevance. Almost every day I see some comment by an "ex-Redditor," "Reddit refugee," etc. on HN and similar sites. Obviously this is not representative of The General Public, but it might be an indicator of where they're going.

I run a small niche regional subreddit and I can tell you it is greatly more popular and active today than it was for the past 5+ years of its life. Through no action of my own, reddit is simply doing a better job of driving people who would be interested in it to the sub.

HN always moans about reddit, they've moaned about it for near a decade at this point, it still just grows bigger.


When some people leave, the community improves and the site gets more popular as a result.

Now, are those the people you're talking about? No idea, I haven't seen who you're referring to and it'd be case-by-case. But point being, the existence of "ex-Redditors" isn't necessarily a bad thing.


I think they really want to turn it into more of a Pinterest and get rid of the opinionated techie.

According to Alexa, Reddit gets more visitors than Wikipedia. I doubt they're going anywhere.

For every HNer that "leaves" Reddit there's probably hundreds of thousands people that just found about this site, they probably come from non-US.

but I think they'd decline hard if they turned off old.reddit e.g now.


> Almost every day I see some comment by an "ex-Redditor," "Reddit refugee," etc. on HN and similar sites.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the "downvoting comments I don't like" phenomenon that seems to have taken over HN these past few years.


Some loud people will always leave, but reddit just this months got a lot of free ads (gamestop) which certainly will counter the leavers.

Yes. Beware the "vocal minority" and the tendency for their behavior to badly distort the signal to noise ratio and potentially even make it look like the opposite of what it really is.

I think in the case of Reddit though that vocal minority could account for some non negligible amount of the content the site relies on. The site needs its power users or it has nothing to deliver to the casual user.

I am spending more time on Reddit these days, not less. I'm spending less time on HN.

I own quite a few subreddits. Maybe I'm a future power user.

The old guard typically dies before the new generation can thrive. Until they leave they tend to actively gatekeep keep potential competitors out.

I am fine with hearing "Maybe you will finally get to build your own garden, at last, Doreen." God knows the past decade has been pure shit for my online social life, which stands in stark contrast to when I routinely had real friends online, met them in person, got meaningful help with my health issues, with raising and educating my kids, etc etc.


FYI, Reddit doesn't care if you complain about the site, as long as you still use it.

All social media sites except 4chan and Facebook die after a while being the #1 spot. I think the reality is that its not undervalued. Reddit is reaching its peak and inevitable collapse.

Seems to me like either you become the #1 and stay there ie Facebook; or you make a complete disposable cluster'fk ie 4chan. There does not seem to be room for a middle ground.


I like Reddit, especially the wide variety of subreddits. There's literally a place for everyone.

Having said that, Conde Nast is busy screwing it up just like they screw up everything they own. Time for a truly open distributed alternative.


As interesting as these data are, I’m not sure if there’s necessarily anything wrong with the value of reddit’s MAU. As the post lays out, it has a liminal feel to it, but that sorta loses its punch if you put all thrusters into redesigning without any clear goal.

As it stands, I find reddit’s award system nice in principle, but in practice it feels so obnoxious that, ironically, I paid for a third-party client that smooths over the UI weirdnesses and hides this layer. But it ultimately remains a layer on top of things that can be hidden. Change that up, and it becomes something the user can’t ignore, and you risk damaging community at the expense of profit.


Though big subreddits are too big for their own good, it has its unique value. It's serves as a battleground for people with agendas and a bellwether to what topics are hot right now in. The big subs as a collective are similar to what Digg was, but on a larger scale. It's more about influencing people than engaging them. I remember when almost 90% of Digg's frontage was submitted by MrBabyMan and there were complaints about that. The one-man show is impossible now on reddit, but groups with the similar agendas where it's at now on reddit.

Parts of reddit are of large negative value to the world. But I guess those are social externalities from the advertiser's point of view.

Current internet model for products like that is ads revenue. Reddit ads are very irrelevant and most of the time straight out bad.

Getting ads to work isn’t easy. It’s very competitive space, and barrier to entry is really high (you won’t get serious money spent with you, if you don’t deliver ROI).

While Reddit does provide a lot of unique utility, as a business its is still questionable.


> While Reddit does provide a lot of unique utility, as a business its is still questionable.

With paid-off moderators, astrosurfing and propaganda I'd say it's unethical at best.


If only search on reddit was fixed...

Reddit's search being broken is a feature.

If you make the search functionality work efficiently then it is easy to see that many common questions on hundreds of subreddits have already been answered in detail so that anyone who can find that post only needs to engage long enough to read one post and its comments.

If search works, there is less need for anyone to become a redditor and to remain engaged with the site. It becomes like a blog post that gave you the information you needed but offered no incentive to read earlier entries or to subscribe for updates.

So, if Search really worked a majority of the time, there would be less need for new posts and therefore less user engagement and fewer eyeballs on the ads they push.

New users come because they heard that there is a subreddit where lots of knowledgeable people discuss the product, hobby, etc that they are interested in.

Subreddits in general are that bomb pizza joint that everyone raves about where the pies are burned at 600* in a wood-fired oven to produce that awesome thin crusty goodness with just the right amount of char. Reddit itself is the soggy disappointment that you get when the middle of the slice slumps flaccidly on the way to your taste buds because the vegetable pieces were too thick and moist and under-cooked for that delicious thin crust to support.

The highly focused subs are the crust, the main subs are the disappointment.

EDIT: Downvoted. Pretty funny. I have been a redditor since 2006. Reddit today is a fantastic but disorganized accumulation of the knowledge and experiences of people from all over the world. Search has never worked reliably though they have had more than a decade to fix or improve it. That's all the evidence that I need to conclude that broken search is a feature intended to drive new content creation. Functional search would make many new posts and comments unnecessary.


Yeah, it embodies Shirky's principle- "Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution"

This would apply similarly to google/TurboTax/Colleges Vs.MOOCs as well


I really hope Greg Isenburg is never given any power over any website I care about.

These are all awful ideas.


It might not be undervalued if the mobile app wasn't trash.

Anyone interested in using an exporter for saved posts on your reddit account? Mine has a goldmine of stuff from over the years.

I think Imgur is one of the first unbundling examples which I think at one point had alexa rank lower than reddit.

Any thing where people are product is not undervalued. Question should why they valued non-zero?

I really enjoyed how alien your phrasing seems. I understand it and I don't at the same time. It takes some time to realise that the order of words is non-standard and some filler words are missing. A very pleasant dissonance.

Why waste time say lot word when few word do trick.

Why waste lot when few do. Why waste when do. Waste lot, few do. Why waste when trick. I'm loving this.

Actually, I am alien aka non-English speaker. I hardly use any articles. I like Java. I also think English - needs version change. And other languages like Java 11 , 10...

China has an MAU just behind Germany? Is this a glitch in the Wall?

buying stock in /r/wallstreetbets?

Are we now approaching metameme stock?


Thanks for posting!



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