“We don’t even realize something is broken until someone else shows us a better way” —Alexis Ohanian
Established in 2006 by founders Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman, the website Reddit bills itself as the “front page of the internet.” Known as much for humorous cat videos and viral memes as the virulent misogyny and racism of some of its user base, the website has evolved into one the most important corners of the internet. In this article we count down 42 remarkable facts about Reddit.
42. Foolish Collectivism
The first time Reddit was mentioned in the New York Times, it was referred to as a form of “foolish collectivism” (along with Wikipedia and Digg) that “grinds away the Web’s edges and saps it of its humanity.” I can’t really argue against that.
41. Gift to Reddit
Imgur, the online image sharing community and platform, was created as a side-project by a computer science student—and Reddit user—in 2009. Imgur was envisioned as an alternative platform to the current image sharing services, which suffered some serious usability issues, and was designed as a gift to the Reddit community.
40. Troll Army
In 2018, Reddit admitted that the site had been used by Russian trolls seeking to influence the 2016 US Presidential election. The site had been used both directly by Russian trolls posing as regular users as well as regular users who linked to content created by Russian trolls.
39. I Don’t Wanna Work, I Just Wanna Surf Reddit All Day!
It’s not uncommon for employees to surf Reddit for a part of the day when they’re supposed to be working, but one American software developer working for Verizon truly took this philosophy to heart: He outsourced his work to a company in China so he could surf Reddit and watch cat videos all day. This employee made hundreds of thousands of dollars and was considered the best coder in the office—until he was caught!
38. Open Letter
Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian wrote an open letter to Reddit users in 2013 pleading for them to discontinue the rampant sexism that plagued the community. Ohanian titled his letter “Dear Fellow Geeks: WTF?”
37. The Front Page of the Internet
Reddit has 542 million monthly visitors. It’s the fourth most popular website in the United States and the sixth most popular in the entire world.
36. Social Media Magic
Sometimes social media is fuelled by some lying. In the early days of Reddit, the site’s founders created hundreds of fake users in order to burnish the impression of an active and fully-formed community. These fake users would post comments and submit links, playing a major role in “setting the tone” for the new website. Founder Steve Huffman stated “You would go to Reddit in the early days, the first couple of months and there’d be tons of… fake users… Social websites require a little bit of magic to work.”
35. Genesis of the Subreddit
The majority of Reddit’s use today is through subreddits, but they didn’t always exist. The developers decided the subdivisions were necessary due to the proliferation of Not Safe For Work (NFSW) posts that would agglomerate on the main Reddit.
34. Submitted Without Comment
While it may seem like its most obvious feature now, Reddit didn’t add comments to the site until six months after it launched. Ironically enough, the first comment ever made was a comment complaining about the new commenting feature—the user feared it would take away from a focus on aggregating the internet’s best links.
Reddit’s mascot is called Snoo. It’s a fingerless and genderless blob, and it began as a simple doodle that Alexis Ohanian drew while a student at the University of Virginia. Reddit has encouraged individual subreddits to add distinctive features to Snoo based on the defining characteristics or features of the subreddit.
32. Secret Santa
Reddit users are responsible for coordinating the world’s largest Secret Santa gift exchange every year. Participants include Bill Gates, Snoop Dogg, and Stephen Colbert, all of whom draw random users every year, and send a wide collection of personalized gifts.
31. Credit for Reddit
The prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers a course on Reddit that has been dubbed “credit for Reddit.” The course looks at how Reddit, and social media more generally, are online manifestations of social power dynamics and phenomena like groupthink. One of the course instructors stated, “If something is on the front page of Reddit, now it matters. It tells you something about that community and what they find important.”
30. In the Shower
Reddit has a subreddit called r/showerthoughts, where users post little philosophical epiphanies that sound as if they originated while ruminating the shower. An example: “It must suck to be an air conditioner repairman. You spend your day working in buildings that have no air conditioning. When it’s fixed and finally cool, you leave.”
29. Fresh Roasting
If you’ve ever wanted to volunteer yourself to be mercilessly mocked by anonymous internet users, then head on over to the subreddit r/roastme. Masochistic users can post photos of themselves to the subreddit along with the “roast me!” prompt and the sub’s users will compete to come up with the most vicious—and often hilarious—takedown.
28. Chance Naming
The name Reddit was created as a simple pun (i.e. “I read it on Reddit”). Coincidentally, the word “Reddit” is also the Latin word for “render,” which in one definition means to “to submit for consideration or approval.”
27. From the Dormitory to the Boardroom
Ohanian and Huffman once lived in dorms across the hall from each other at the University of Virginia. As juniors, they devised the original idea that became Reddit and went into business together.
26. Good Purchase
Within two years of its founding, the site was sold by its founders to publishing house behemoth Conde Nast for between $10 and $20 million. Reddit is now valued at approximately $1.8 billion.
25. Who are You?
Reddit’s users skew young, white, and male. While this might not seem like a major newsflash, there is now statistical evidence backing it up. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, men make up 67% of all Reddit users, 64% of users are between the ages of 18-29, and 70% of users are white. I can do that math.
24. Digital Generation
According to the same Pew Research Center study, a significant 78% of all Reddit users get their news from the site and are more likely than other adults to get their news from digital sources.
23. Naming Challenge
Reddit was never the consensus name choice for the promising website. Potential names suggested by Ohanian included perkperk.com, lexpop.com, popfresh.com and snoovox.com. A co-founder of Y Combinator (the start-up incubator that provided the seed funding for the project) wanted to name it 360scope.com. Thankfully, Reddit was the one that ended up on top!
22. It’s All Been Done Before
One would think that the most popular and upvoted posts on Reddit are those that rise above the fray of common sentiment with a unique take or perspective. Well, if you thought that you’d be wrong! One study has shown that a full 52% of all links that make it to the front page of Reddit have been submitted before by a different user.
21. Fall from Grace
One of Reddit’s most popular users, named “Unidan,” was discovered to have five other accounts that he used to upvote his own posts and downvote his detractors. Unidan was known on science-based subreddits as the “excited biologist” for his gregarious nature and humorous explanations of scientific phenomena. He had developed a sterling reputation among the site’s user base and had near-celebrity status on the site before being caught rigging his posts. How the mighty have fallen.
20. Reddit IRL
In July 2017, a Reddit user who posted a video of Donald Trump wrestling Vince McMahon with CNN’s logo superimposed over McMahon’s head ignited a media firestorm after the video was tweeted by President Donald Trump himself. Investigative reporting by CNN quickly identified the identity of the user who had posted the video on the Donald Trump subreddit (along with a long trail of racist, anti-semitic and Islamophobic comments). Soon after, the user apologized on the subreddit, making it maybe the first time a person on the internet has apologized for anything.
19. Big Break
One man became a Hollywood screenwriter as a result of a series of Reddit comments he made in a thread! In the subreddit, r/Ask Reddit, a user had asked “Could I destroy the entire Roman Empire during the reign of Augustus if I traveled back in time with a modern US Marine infantry battalion or MEU?” James Irwin replied to the post with a series of imaginative narrative-like comments that immediately struck a chord within the thread. Within three hours of making the comments, a film producer reached out to him; within two weeks, he was offered a deal to write a screenplay based on the comments; and, within two months, he went on leave from his job at a financial services firm to become a Hollywood screenwriter.
18. The Doggfather
In 2014, a group of investors raised $50 million in funding for Reddit. Aside from the usual tech bros and venture capitalists, one of the more prominent investors was none other than Snoop Dogg, who’s one of the most popular celebrities on the site.
17. All the Credit To Him
One enterprising individual managed to accumulate over $50,000 in Uber ride credits by spamming his referral code on Reddit. The user said he enjoyed free Uber rides for approximately eight weeks until he gave a driver a one-star review, which prompted Uber to look into his account balance. The user said his account was frozen immediately and all his credits canceled (Uber later gave the user back $500 worth of credits. Soooo generous, Uber).
16. Open or Closed?
For much of its history, Reddit’s code was open source, which meant anyone could download it in order to learn from it or edit it in order to make their own Reddit. However, as of September 2017, Reddit’s main code was no longer open source, so you’ve missed your chance if you haven’t already downloaded it.
15. The Hug of Death
The term “Reddit effect” refers to when a smaller website crashes after being linked to on Reddit. Because Reddit is such an enormous website with so many users, when a smaller website is linked to on Reddit in a popular post, this can bombard the smaller website with immense amounts of web traffic. This phenomenon is also humorously referred to as the “Reddit Hug of Death.”
14. Sticker Shock
In all the years since its founding, Reddit has spent a grand total of $500 advertising—and that money didn’t even go towards purchasing web ads. Instead, the Reddit founders bought $500 worth of stickers and stuck them on poles, walls, and signs around Boston, as well as giving them away to anyone and everyone they would meet. Guess it worked!
13. Thank You for Reading
One of the most common refrains on social media is to “read the article before offering your opinion on it.” Unfortunately, like much of the internet, a study has shown that 73% of Reddit users upvote a post without ever clicking the link and viewing the content that they’re upvoting. Now just imagine what percentage of those who click through to the content actually read the whole thing!
12. Charitable Project
Reddit communities have frequently organized and directed charitable endeavors. Some of these charitable projects have included organizing humanitarian relief following earthquakes in Haiti in 2010 and Nepal in 2015.
11. Competitive Fundraising
One charitable project spearheaded by the subreddit r/atheism spurred a healthy competition with the Christianity and Islam subreddits as to which subreddit could raise the most money. In 2010, the r/atheism subreddit decided to raise money for Doctors Without Borders and promoted friendly competition with the Christianity subreddit who began raising money for World Vision. Later, the Islam subreddit joined in and raised money for the charity Islamic Relief. In less than a week, the three communities raised more than $50,000 for the charities.
10. In the Year 3016
An artist created a project called “Reddit3016” that imagines the front page of the internet 1,000 years in the future. The site includes articles he wrote for the future “Huffington Planet” and videos he spliced for the future “Mind Tube.” Here’s hoping that Factinate is around in 3016 too, giving you facts on ancient technology like teleporters and flying cars.
9. Gotta Have a Back-Up!
Reddit was not the first business idea that its founders pitched to Y Combinator. The first was actually an app where you could order takeout food online ahead of time so it would be ready once you came to pick it up. While this idea seems obvious today, Y Combinator discouraged Ohanian and Huffman from pursuing this idea, arguing that restaurants were old-fashioned and wouldn’t adopt the app, and encouraged them to come back with a new idea. Ohanian and Huffman soon returned, presenting Reddit. The rest, as they say, is history!
8. Interesting or Boring?
Reddit is known for its upvote/downvote feature that allows the site to aggregate the most popular and relevant content for its users. But in the site’s development, Ohanian envisioned using the words “interesting” and “boring” rather than upvote and downvote as the metric for reader’s to rank content. How about “funny” or “die,” has anyone tried that?
7. Executive Error
Before selling Reddit to Conde Nast in 2006, the founders met with both Google and Yahoo to discuss the site’s acquisition. Reportedly the meeting with Yahoo soured quickly after an executive remarked that Reddit’s traffic was a mere “rounding error” compared to Yahoo. How times have changed!
6. Opposites Attract?
Reddit Founder Alexis Ohanian recently married and had a child with tennis superstar Serena Williams. When the couple met, Williams had never heard of Reddit and Ohanian had never watched Williams play tennis!
5. Trust the Process
Sometimes the best business strategy when dealing with competitors is to trust the process and do nothing! Back in the late 2000s, the website Digg—rather than Reddit—was the king of aggregating web information. Reddit was well aware of their competitor from the beginning; when Digg launched, Ohanian emailed Huffman quipping “meet the enemy.” But Reddit’s founders, confident in the superiority of their minimalist, users-first platform, decided to do absolutely nothing to thwart their rivals. Instead, they sat back and waited for Digg to collapse by itself. By 2009, Reddit claimed the king’s crown and the website has never looked back.
4. Corporate Astroturfers
While Reddit has a reputation as a decentralized web democracy run by regular people without a specific agenda, the truth is a bit murkier. A 2013 story revealed that large corporate brands (like Nissan, McDonald’s, and Walmart) use Reddit to push stories promoting their products and brand. This push goes all the way to populating the site with fake users, who, posing as everyday users, post and upvote stories that are the equivalent of advertisements. Think you can spot them?
3. Bad Work, Detectives!
Following the 2013 Boston marathon bombing, Reddit became a hotbed of amateur sleuths who attempted to put their collective wisdom to work in identifying the bombers. Instead, these slipshod Sherlocks wrongly identified and fixated on several suspects that turned out to be completely innocent. The General Manager of Reddit later apologized for its users’ behavior, criticizing the surge in “online witch hunts and dangerous speculation” that took place.
2. Fake News
In 2016, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman admitted to editing users expletive-filled posts made in the Donald Trump subreddit r/The_Donald. The editing occurred following Huffman’s shutting down of a subreddit dedicated to proving that Hillary Clinton ran a child-sex ring out of a pizza parlor (a conspiracy theory commonly known as “pizzagate”). This action infuriated members of r/The_Donald, who began posting expletive-filled rants against Huffman for this perceived act of censorship. Huffman responded by editing these posts to replace his name with the names of the Moderators of the r/The_Donald subreddit.
1. The Wrath of Shatner
William Shatner joined Reddit in 2013 and did not take kindly to what he saw there. He called out Reddit users and its managers for “the immature, horrifically racist, sexist, homophobic, ethnic… etc.. posts that are just ignored.” Shatner lamented that Reddit was the only “mainstream site” that allows “racists and other hate mongers to group, congregate, incite and spread their hatred.”