In April of 2005 two American university students named Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman had
an idea for a mobile food ordering service called My Mobile Menu.
The service would allow you to order food on your phone and thus bypass the need for queues.
But this was 2005, before the iPhone and the subsequent smartphone revolution so convincing
the public to use their Snake machines for something more practical would be next to impossible.
The idea was simply too far ahead of its time.
So while brainstorming for a new idea, they eventually decided to abandoned the mobile
market in favor of a news aggregation website which an investor defined as:
“The front page of the internet.”
This would later become the adopted slogan of the website which they initially called
Snew, a portmanteau of “what’s new”.
The intention was for people to ask “what’s snew?” and as such they would essentially
answer their own question.
Unfortunately the domain name had already been taken.
Other potential names included Oobaloo, 360Scope, HotSnoo, RipeFresh, DoseDose and numerous others.
Eventually the name Reddit was suggested by Ohanian and, much like Snew, Reddit is a portmanteau of
“read it” as in “I read it on Reddit.”
The term Snew was later repurposed as the name for the mascot of the company except
with an alternate spelling.
On the 23rd of June, 2005, Reddit along with it’s fantastic misuse of whitespace made its debut.
The very first post, submitted by Ohanian himself, is titled The Downing Street Memo
and remains online to this day.
Over the following months both Ohanian and Huffman created numerous fake account in order
to populate the desolate website with interesting links to give any unsuspecting visitors the
illusion of a thriving online community.
Much like what Google+ is doing today.
A commenting system would not be implemented until December and, with typical Reddit enthusiasm,
the very first comment on the submission announcing the ability to comment is someone complaining
about the fact that comments are now a thing.
The announcement to allow users to create their own subreddit in March of 2008 provoked
an equally enthusiastic response but now, over a decade later, it is difficult to imagine
the website without comments and specialized communities.
Throughout the mid-to-late 2000s Reddit was in fierce competition with another very similar
website known as Digg.
Reddit was launched a few months after Digg but the main features were more or less same.
You could post links, discuss those links, and vote them up or down.
For many years, Digg was far more popular than Reddit but this would all change in August
of 2010 when Digg essentially committed suicide by launching a highly controversial redesign
simply known as Version 4.
The overhaul came after years of scandals and poor decisions and served as the final
catalyst for the site’s eventual downfall.
The redesign removed or stifled many popular features, disproportionately favor advertisers,
and alienated its core userbase.
A few days after implementation, users protested the redesign by flooding the frontpage with
links to the site’s competitor, Reddit, triggering a mass migration.
Thousands of Diggers became Redditors over night and they never looked back.
Daily visitors fell by 26% in less than a month and searches for Reddit quickly surpassed that of Digg.
Over on Reddit new accounts skyrocketed and five days after Digg’s redesign, 14% of Reddit’s
total traffic came from Digg and that’s not accounting for direct traffic nor the
elderly method of browsing the web.
Naturally, Reddit capitalized on their rival’s misstep by welcoming the newcomers and even
changed the logo to resemble that of Digg’s.
To better illustrate this downfall I took the liberty to collect the highest ranked
post on the frontpage of Digg for each day between the months of May and December of 2010.
As you can see, the decline is quite evident and many would argue that this blunder is
largely responsible for Reddit’s subsequent dominance of this space.
As Reddit now prepares for a major overhaul of its own, who knows, maybe history will repeat itself.
To maximize the exposure of a submission on Reddit your goal should naturally be to reach
Now, regardless if you’re a bot disguised as a person or an advertising firm disguised
as a person how exactly does one go about doing that?
Is there a magic formula to reaching the top?
Time of day, submission type, phrasing of the title, buying upvotes, etc. will all have
an effect on the success of your submissions.
But the average Redditor might tell you, rather cynically, that the most effective method
of accumulating karma is to copy and steal from others.
Unfortunately, their cynicism appears to be justified.
A study from 2013 found that within a 17 day period 52% of the submissions that reached
the frontpage had previously been posted within that same period.
Meaning that 52% of the submissions were reposts while the other 48% were either original or
reposts that merely fell outside the given time frame.
In other words, you are more likely to reach the frontpage by reposting a preexisting submission
than if you were to post something original.
It only makes sense then for the findings of this study to have been reposted several
times over and for one of the most upvoted submissions of all time to be complaining
about the ubiquity of reposts.
Using Google’s Ngram Viewer it’s possible to graph the frequency of any given term across
millions of books and texts spanning many centuries.
If we do a search for Reddit we find that the word has been in use since as far back
as the 18th century.
While the graph may going downhill it is in fact unrelated to the website.
You see, long before the creation of reddit.com the portmanteau actually served as the punchline
to an old joke, featured here in an archived Usenet post from 1990.
You can pause and readdit if you’d like.
In addition, Reddit is actually a surname.
But the main reason for this apparent anachronism is the that reddit is a word in Latin.
In Latin the verb reddo can be translated as “return”, “restore”, or “to give back”.
The verb can then be conjugated as reddit meaning “it returns” or redditor meaning “one who returns”.
Although, other possible definitions include “to repeat” and “to imitate” so it’s not entirely
inaccurate to say that Reddit literally means to repost.
On May the 2nd, 2015, a user by the name of RBradbury1920 posted a story to the /r/LegalAdvice
subreddit in which they expressed concern over some mysterious post-it notes they had
found in their apartment.
The notes contained information which they had not revealed to anyone else and they could
not remember writing the notes themselves.
Initially suspecting their landlord of posting the notes they consulted Reddit for advice
on how to proceed.
However, user Kakkerlak offered an alternative explanation.
They suggested that the post-it notes had in fact been written by Bradbury themselves
but that carbon monoxide poisoning could be affecting their memory.
A few hours later, Bradbury confirmed Kakkerlak’s theory with the help of a carbon monoxide detector.
The apartment had indeed been flooded with dangerous levels of the odorless gas by way
of a nearby parking space and as such induced sporadic lapses in memory.
In later updates, Bradbury explained that the poisoning caused brain swelling and that
it took over a year for them to fully recover.
It’s entirely possible that Kakkerlak saved Bradbury’s life with that simple comment as
a few more days or weeks in that apartment could’ve proved fatal.
If you’ve been using Reddit for a while chances are that you’ve seen a comment like this one.
It usually works like this.
A submission or comment makes a statement with two subjects.
Someone then pretends to misunderstand the statement by switching the subjects.
Someone then points out the formulaic nature of the joke by replying:
“Ah, the ol’ Reddit switch-a-roo.”
While linking back to a previous instance of the joke.
In short, it’s a site-specific meme with a dedicated subreddit and everything.
The reason I bring this up is that in 2015, a user by the name of faymontage took advantage
of this back-linking to create this intricate web of switch-a-roos.
Each node represent an instance of the meme and it goes on for years.
The longest chain is 1427 comments long and goes all the way back to the original comment,
posted by user jun2san on June the 27th, 2011.
Effectively proving that yeah this is a very formulaic joke.
On August the 10th, 2011, a user posted a submission to the /r/TodayILearned subreddit
with a link to the Wikipedia page for the movie Cry Baby Lane.
It’s a made-for-television horror film which aired on Nickelodeon back in 2000 but due
to poor reception it only aired once.
Ever since people have attempted to recover a copy of the lost film but to no avail.
The film’s obscurity generated a lot of wild speculation and some even began to question
the film’s existence in the first place.
That is, until a Reddit user by the name of firesaladpeach claimed to own a VHS copy of
the film which they had recorded on the day of its original broadcast.
While many remained skeptical firesaladpeach soon made good on their word by uploading
a video of them filming the playback of the VHS on a TV screen.
Many users then offered to convert the VHS into a modern file format and a few days later
firesaladpeach uploaded the entire feature length version of Cry Baby Lane.
In less than four days Reddit manage to locate a film which countless others had failed to
locate in over a decade.
The interest generated by Reddit subsequent prompted Nickelodeon to rerelease the film
on Halloween of 2011.
Back in January of 2014, the subreddit for the meme-based cryptocurrency Dogecoin decided
it was time to promote the currency on the world stage.
The question was, what would be a good way to promote a digital currency?
One user had the obvious answer.
You see, the Jamaican bobsled team had to raise some $80,000 in order to compete in
the 2014 Winter Olympics and so the Dogecoin community stepped up to the challenge and
donated some $30,000 worth of Dogecoins.
As such, the team was able to make it to the Olympics.
A few months later, the community came together once more to sponsor yet another race.
Except this time it was a race on wheels.
Dogecoin would now sponsor a NASCAR racecar by raising some $55,000 in a week.
The aptly named Dogecar, or Race God in reverse of course, was plastered with the Dogecoin
logo and was even featured in a NASCAR video game.
And now, if all goes according to plan, a physical representation of Dogecoin will reach
the Moon aboard a Lunar Lander expected to launch in 2019.
Independent research from 2016 found that 77% of all top-voted comments were among the
first 10 top-level comments to be posted on a submission.
Meaning that what you say is not nearly as important as when you say it.
Once a submission has amassed some 50-100 top-level comments your chance of reaching
the top is virtually zero.
The “Best” sorting method, first introduced back in 2009, attempts to counteract this
bias but early-birds clearly have the advantage.
Oh, and another fun fact is that over 70% of submissions with more than 1,000 comments
includes at least one comment about Hitler or Nazis.
And that’s with all historical subreddits excluded.
Although, too be fair, this statistic does not take context into account.
Back in 2011, a user by the name of A858DE45F56D9BC9
began dumping strings of mysterious code into a self-titled subreddit.
Puzzled by their meaning and purpose curious Redditors were determined to decipher these
mysterious codes while others accused A858 of being nothing more than a troll intent
on wasting everyone’s time.
Eventually a user by the name of fragglet decoded one of the ciphers revealing an ASCII
image of Stonehenge.
This is believed to a be a reference to a previous comment in which a user compared
the enigmatic nature of A858 to that of the famous stone formation in England.
As the years went by, A858 continued to post enigmatic codes while amateur cryptographers
struggled to crack them.
The subreddit would sporadically be set to private only to be reopened for no apparent reason.
Decoded submissions merely added to the confusion as no underlying purpose or pattern could be discerned.
In 2014, A858 posted the same ASCII image of Stonehenge to the /r/pics subreddit on April Fools.
Perhaps this should have been a sign of what was to come.
That is, nothing.
The A858 subreddit was eventually closed for good and the associated account was deleted.
The mods of the subreddit dedicated to solving the mystery claim to have been in contact
with the people behind it and the short version is that A858 was a project funded by an unknown
company for some unknown purpose.
In other words, no one knows what it means or if it ever meant anything in the first place.
A user by the name of F04CB41F154DB2F05A4A launched a similar self-titled subreddit back
in 2012 but unlike A858 it has since been resolved.
Unfortunately, the resolution of F04C is about as anticlimactic as the premature conclusion
of A858 as the decoded messages revealed nothing more than one-liners, memes, and other nonsense.
If only people had listened to this premonition by user Khiraji from 6 years ago.
Alas, the warning went ignored.