In 2005 a website called Reddit was founded by Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman. It quickly became known as the front page of the Internet. With the ability to have complete anonymity online in the days of Facebook, and Twitter was a big draw to the website. Most of it’s users are between the ages of 18 – 29 and mostly male. Keep that in mind because it’s an incredibly important detail to remember.

The Community:

Now with any big website that house anonymous conversations, you will get your scandals, just look at the few that have stemmed from 4chan. The first big one that brought attention to Reddit was the Boston Bombing. This caused an issue because Reddit users started a witch hunt to find the man who supposedly did it. It turned out they were completely wrong and almost ruined someone’s life. The community learned from that, and no more witch hunts were to be started.

In 2014 theFappening occurred where hundreds of nude celebrity photos were leaked online. This led to a much stricter policy on these type of images being posted. This of course was well understood to the community and didn’t cause any huge lasting outrage.

Then in 2015, Ellen Pao the new CEO shutdown the subreddit “fatpeoplehate”. It was shutdown due to harassment issues, which caused a very controversial argument on the site, between what types of posts should be allowed and which shouldn’t. Ellen Pao stepped down after this, party due to a petition had received 200,000 signatures asking for her removal. Steve Huffman, one of the original cofounders stepped back in.

Now these scandals, were mostly caused by the users as opposed to admins of the site (Admins being the people who actually work at Reddit). When the community does something wrong, they typically have understood that they crossed a line and would accept new site rules that were placed to prevent it from happening again.

The Admins:

As I said before Reddit by Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman. They ran the company and grew it while. Condé Nast Publications acquired the site in October 2006.

Just a quick overview of their time at CondeNast from Aliens in the Valley:

For the first few years it was part of Conde Nast, revenue wasn’t the top concern. The real reason Conde Nast acquired Reddit, according to two execs close to Conde Nast then, was so the ad sales team could lump Reddit’s audience together with the audiences for their other tech-focused digital properties, including and Ars Technica. Reddit significantly increased that segment’s number of uniques. It was also a ploy to get the attention of advertisers by showing Conde Nast had a hip, innovative tech property. They then spun Reddit out as it’s own company in 2011. Yishan Wong took over in 2012 as the CEO.

This is where everything starts to get interesting. Yishan took over in the worst time possible, because most of the Scandals happened while he was CEO. He was someone who didn’t believe in making big bold changes to reddit. He tried to protect the community’s freedom of speech for as long as he could. When theFappening took place Yishan eventually put up a perplexing blog post stating yet again that Reddit’s team supported free speech, even for the most unsavory content. He argued that “every man is responsible for his own soul.”

Finally he quit, surprising most of the staff and the community.

Another note to keep in mind is that Reddit, still was not technically profitable. Their only real source of income was selling Reddit Gold which users could pay for monthly. They had issues generating advertising revenue due the community’s hatred of it and use of adblockers.

Ellen Pao took over in 2014, by this time shareholders are starting to get hungry for some money so monetization efforts are started. She led the monetization front of Reddit. A large campaign from an advertiser runs in the $100,000 range, according to this person, while a good-size single ad sale is around $20,000.

Now since Ellen stepped down, almost one year ago on June 15th, everything has remained quiet until recently. The first big change that came was they announced a mobile app. Apps to browse mobile have always been made by a 3rd party, until now. They announced the app and gave free gold to anyone who downloaded it. Unfortunately, for them the app isn’t quite as good as its competitors. It is still in its infancy but it has a lot of catching up to do. Now before I get into an explanation of why this might end up hurting Reddit. Let me tell you about another big change. Reddit is now hosting it’s own pictures. Up until recently most Reddit users used the site Imgur to host images. The site was actually created by a Reddit user and the community quickly grew to love it. This is kind of important because the communities are symbiotic to each other. Users could easily navigate between the two sites.

Now hosting your own images and creating your own app makes a lot of sense when you want to monetize, you don’t want to push users off your site onto another one, especially one that started boosting it’s own monetization. The one big issue again leads back to the symbiotic relationship of the two sites. Reddit has close to double at monthly page views at 8 billion vs Imgurs 5.5 billion.

It will be interesting to see how Reddit now handles the annexation of Imgur and the likewise. They have now officially become competitors to each other, not only that but Reddit has now become a competitor to all it’s 3rd party viewers. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t appear to be a big deal but if you take a look at Digg, the history starts to look a little similar. When Digg V4 came out their was a major immigration from Digg to Reddit, and that was due to a change in how the site worked. Reddit is starting to walk a very fine line with its new changes. It is only a matter of time before they push a little too far and make a change the user base doesn’t like. At the moment there are no real Reddit alternatives, one ex-employee recently launched Imgzy, but it is still in its infancy and Voat is still around but does not have a huge user base.

My prediction is that Reddit’s future is up in the air. It could go in a lot it different directions and it will be interesting to see where the Admins take it.

This post was originally published on my linkedin.