Hot off the keyboard – NetHosting has released a new case study about the popular social news site: Reddit. Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian founded Reddit in 2005 after they had graduated from the University of Virginia. Sound familiar? Many other booming social websites were founded by recent university grads or students, such as Dropbox and Facebook. And Reddit is looking to be no different, growing to over 1.6 billion page views a month and outranking Digg as the Internet’s favorite social news site. Before heading over to the case study, take a sneak peak at what it’s all about.
After Huffman and Ohanian founded Reddit, they received $100,000 from Y Combinator (a start-up funding firm). A year later, Condé Nast Publications acquired Reddit and they joined the ranks of other Condé Nast sites like Wired and Ars Technica. In 2009, Reddit realized that hosting their own physical servers to handle all of their traffic wasn’t going to cut it. They moved their site from their offices to Amazon’s Web Services in the cloud. The cloud provided the dynamic malleability they needed to survive, whether the site was visited by hundreds of thousands of people at once, or just a few thousand during off-peak hours. Right now, Reddit ranks as the 48th most trafficked site in the United States and 113th in the world.
In 2010, Reddit experienced a lack of funding to keep the site going. They launched a monthly or yearly subscription service called Reddit Gold to try and entice users to spend money on the site. The program worked and Reddit was able to stay afloat. After five years of being a Condé Nast product, Reddit decided to leave. They didn’t get far though, as they are now considered a subsidiary of Condé Nast’s parent company, Advance Publications. By Reddit’s own description from their blog, this shift gave them more flexibility and freedom in administering their website.
So what is the secret sauce to Reddit’s success? Many believe it’s in their hands-off approach to the content submitted to their site. Unregistered users can browse submitted links and comments, but can’t submit content or comments, or vote on content or comments. The more “up votes” a submission receives from registered users, the higher it moves up the ladder of popular news and the more visible it is on Reddit. If a submission receives “down votes,” it is pushed farther back and is seen by less people. The same voting system applies to users comments on content submissions. The community does have moderators, but they are unpaid volunteers. Other social news sites have received flack from users for putting articles on the home page that companies have paid to have there, and ignoring users’ opinions or votes on what should be made more or less visible.
In addition to the submission and voting system, users can also earn trophies and achievements to display on their user pages. Much like achievement systems in many video games today, it doesn’t offer the users any extra content or privileges, but provides a sense of accomplishment. And perhaps the most popular feature – Reddit gives users a chance to create categories of news called reddits (commonly referred to by the community as sub-reddits). Users give the sub-reddit a title such as World News and the creator automatically becomes a moderator. When users submit links specifically to that sub-reddit, the moderator monitors the submissions to make sure they’re about world news, and removes the content if it’s not applicable to the sub-reddit. Other users can subscribe to a plethora of sub-reddits and customize what they see when they first log into Reddit.
Whatever the reason for Reddit’s popularity, the website provides an interesting example of the direction of social media today and an effective use of cloud computing in furthering a business. Check out the case study for a deeper look into what Reddit’s all about.