Illustration by Jason Reed (Fair Use)
How much do you really know about the front page of the internet?
Reddit has become one of the most powerful sites in the online world. It averages between 10 and 12 million unique visitors and over 100 million pageviews per month, an audience size that can instantly make news and videos go viral. Their users help create new memes, push news stories no one else is covering, and boost content that would otherwise go undiscovered by the masses. The site has become the internet equivalent of a late-night TV appearance—a place where celebrities and politicians regularly stop by to promote their new work and directly interact with fans.
You may know Reddit for its influence during the 2016 election, when it became a rowdy hub for supporters of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, or the many times it’s ended up on the wrong side of the news. But how much do you know about the site, really, or the thousands of subreddits, or forums, that make it so unique? From heartwarming stories to Reddit’s battles with its users over free speech, here are the highs and lows of Reddit’s fascinating history.
30 interesting facts about Reddit
1. The question of who founded Reddit is complicated
Reddit was co-founded by Alexis Ohanian, Steve Huffman, Aaron Swartz, and Christopher Slowe in 2005. Ohanian and Huffman, both at age 22, started the company after graduating from University of Virginia, with Swartz and Slowe joining later that year. All four were listed as founders on the Conde Nast’s acquisition documents when they bought the company, but Ohanian and Huffman have disputed in the years since if Swartz was truly a founder. Today, Reddit only credits Ohanian and Huffman as founders.
When Aaron Swartz left the company in 2006, he began to refocus his attention on activism, pointing problems with misogyny and racism within the tech community and preaching the importance of internet freedom. In 2010, he co-founded Demand Progress, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting for net neutrality and online civil rights.
2. Reddit’s founders faked it till they made it
In the site’s early days, the founders made hundreds of fake profiles to give the impression the site was more popular than it was. They submitted links, commented, and built the appearance of an established community. The fake accounts helped “set the tone” for what the founders wanted Reddit to become.
“You would go to Reddit in the early days, the first couple of months and there’d be tons of … fake users,” Steve Huffman revealed in a 2012 video for online educator Udacity. “Social websites require a little bit of magic to work.”
3. Subreddits were born out of porn and gore
Subreddits were created because of all the NSFW Reddit content that was being shared in the site’s early days. On Jan. 19, 2006, founder Steve Huffman, aka spez, posted a blog introducing the concept of subsections to the site and launching the first one in a post titled “for those of you with a private office…” This announcement blog post has since been deleted but can still be read on Archive.org.
4. Reddit has spent almost no money on advertising
As of 2012, Reddit had only spent $500 on advertising in its lifetime, and all of that was on stickers. We reached out to Reddit to get an updated figure. We’ll update if we hear back.
Photo via Eva Blue (CC-BY)
5. Commenting wasn’t originally a part of Reddit
Reddit didn’t launch comments until six months into its existence. You could vote on comments when they launched, but over time, more options have been added. Now users can use markdown language to customize text, add tables, quotes, and other accruements to make their posts stand out. Now, comment threads can contain thousands of responses on their own, allowing for breakout discussions to take place without derailing the greater conversation.
6. The first comment was a complaint
More specifically, the first comment, which you can see below, was a complaint about the inclusion of comments in the first place. Users were annoyed that rather than focusing on building the best place to find and share links, Reddit was putting energy into adding unnecessary features in the name of chasing profits. Ironically, commenting would be the foundation for the site’s growth in many ways, helping build diverse communities and foster conversation, for better or worse..
7. The first commenter is still around
Even after 11 years, that first commenter, charlieb, is still posting on Reddit. Apparently, despite their worries, Reddit was not taken over by spam overlords. In fact, charlieb has built a nice little reputation commenting, with 11,334 in personal comment karma as of this writing.
8. You can read Reddit comments in real time
You can read a real-time feed of every comment made on Reddit by visiting https://www.reddit.com/comments/. However, the list includes NSFW threads, so be careful with it at the office since comments about porn can appear next to political discussions. When you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back.
9. Plenty of people have turned Reddit comments into works of art
There have been countless novelty accounts over the years that turn particularly inspiring comment threads into everything from pop songs to animated stories. The most popular of which would likely be Shitty_Watercolour, a British artist who gained internet fame in 2012 for his, well, kinda shitty watercolor paintings inspired by Reddit comments.
10. Reddit’s mascot has a name—and his look changes depending on the subreddit
Reddit’s mascot is named Snoo, and the iconic mascot started simply as a doodle founder Alexis Ohanian, aka kn0thing, drew while attending UVA. Snoo is genderless and has no fingers, but that doesn’t mean Snoo can’t be distinctive. In fact, Snoo is defined by whatever community you are currently visiting. Reddit has encouraged subreddits to make their own Snoo, and there’s even a website with base files for mods who want to create their own Snoo.
11. Reddit once helped build a wall in Kenya
Reddit often makes the news for the worst reasons, but its users are also incredibly caring and philanthropic. Following a horrific machete attack by thieves, redditor TheLake posted about the need for a security wall at Faraja Children’s Home in Kenya. For $2,000, the orphanage could afford to build a concrete wall with barbed-wire. The Reddit community responded with $100,000.
12. Reddit is responsible for the world’s largest Secret Santa
Reddit’s Secret Santa set a Guinness World record for the largest gift exchange in 2012, and it shattered the record the following year, with 89,421 people from 160 different countries taking part. The annual event is overseen by Redditgifts, an offshoot of Reddit, and the gifts each year are surprisingly awesome.
13. Snoop Dogg gives the best gifts
Celebrities like Stephen Colbert and Bill Gates have taken part in Reddit’s Secret Santa over the years, but Snoop Dogg arguably gives the best gifts. Need proof? Here’s one lucky person’s haul from 2016.
14. There’s an easy way to see overlooked links
As Reddit grew during its early days, quality control became a serious issue. With more links getting submitted every day, it became harder for the cream to rise to the top. In March of 2006, Reddit introduced the Rising page to help combat this issue, providing quality links that might have been overlooked with a place to be discovered.
15. The user with the most karma got it from porn
If you take into account link karma, given when someone upvotes a link you’ve submitted, user pepsi_next is the number one user on Reddit. To date, pepsi_next has accrued 9,915,397 karma points on the site, mostly by submitting porn. If you’re curious about where to start in that arena, here’s our guide to NSFW Reddit.
- The best porn and sexiest places on Reddit
- 34 surprising exceptions to Rule 34
- Reddit 50/50: What is it and why is it so popular?
- Today’s women want to listen to men moaning
16. The Reddit community’s self-awareness shows in the biggest post of all time
The top-voted post on Reddit of all time is a GIF about the dangers of reposting content someone else created without giving credit.
17. Barack Obama held the site’s biggest AMA
President Barack Obama conducted an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on the site in 2012, taking questions from the user base. The session attracted so many users the site suffered from outages, but you can read all of the questions he answered here. To date is has been the largest AMA in Reddit history with almost 100,000 more upvotes than the second place story.
18. Reddit’s most controversial question was asked at Neil Gorsuch’s Senate hearing
There’s one question you can always count on being asked during an AMA: Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck? And that question somehow made its way into Neil Gorsuch’s Senate hearing on his Supreme Court nomination, posed bySen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). Sadly, Gorsuch declined to answer.
19. Reddit has seen exponential growth in the number of new subreddits
As of May 9, 2017, there were 1,075,430 subreddits on the site, with more being added every day.
20. Reddit stands for free speech, even when it finds that speech “odious”
Reddit launched as a bastion of free speech, a place where any idea, no matter how comfortable, could find a home. When asked in October of 2012 why some of their more extreme subreddits were allowed to continue to flourish, then-CEO Yishan Wong stated, “We stand for free speech. That means we are not going to ban distasteful subreddits. We will not ban legal content even if we find it odious or if we personally condemn it.” However, some subreddits have been banned over the years for breaking the law or violating other users’ privacy. Perhaps the most notorious, r/Jailbait was shut down in 2011, after the subreddit was used to share child pornography, with r/CreepShots, where users shared photos of unsuspecting women, following the next year.
21. The site’s censorship has mostly been in response to privacy violations
Many of the most controversial subreddit closures didn’t come about because of the horrific content of the communities, but rather, the behavior of those involved. The hate community r/n*****s, for example, was banned from Reddit because it engaged in vote manipulation on the site and used racist content to harass other communities. Meanwhile, likeminded subreddits like r/fatpeoplehate, r/hamplanethatred, r/transfags, r/neofag, and r/shitn*****rssay were banned in June 2015 after using the platform for harassment. Here’s what Reddit said at the time team’s post:
Our goal is to enable as many people as possible to have authentic conversations and share ideas and content on an open platform. We want as little involvement as possible in managing these interactions but will be involved when needed to protect privacy and free expression, and to prevent harassment.
It is not easy to balance these values, especially as the Internet evolves. We are learning and hopefully improving as we move forward. We want to be open about our involvement: We will ban subreddits that allow their communities to use the subreddit as a platform to harass individuals when moderators don’t take action. We’re banning behavior, not ideas.
22. There is a science to getting upvotes
A Ph.D. student named Randy Olson conducted a study of 850,000 top Reddit posts from 4,200 of the most active subreddits to figure out how to craft a post that would get upvoted. His final results showed the best time to post, how to form a title, and what content gets the best response. Things have changed since it was originally published in 2013, but his results are still fascinating and can be read here.
23. MIT once offered college credit for browsing Reddit
In 2014, Massachusetts Institute of Technology offered a house called “Credit for Reddit,” which looked at how the social news site was impacting society. “One of the things we try to do in this class is make sure people understand that the technology they use in their daily lives is rooted very deeply in important social issues,” co-instructor Chris Peterson told Vice at the time. “If something is on the front page of Reddit, now it matters. It tells you something about that community and what they find important.”
24. Reddit helped popularize the showerbeer…
A showerbeer is exactly what it sounds like—a beer enjoyed in the shower—and there’s an entire subreddit where users share photos of themselves having one (and it often gets NSFW). The concept has gotten so popular that there’s now are competing “shower beers” on the market.
25. And “shower thoughts“
While the two are intrinsically connected, they certainly go together well. Shower thoughts are those random epiphanies that come up when your mind starts to wander. Here’s one popular example:
26. It’s responsible for the 50/50 challenge
The Reddit 50/50 challenge will either make or break your day. The premise is simple: A user’s submission promises either something incredible exciting and happy or the exact opposite, a GIF or video that will crush your spirit. There’s only one link, so you don’t know what you’re going to get. Here’s an example:
The challenge started on Reddit, obviously, but it’s become something of a web phenomenon, with many YouTubers filming their own attempts. Are you brave enough to try?
- 15 celebs to look for on Reddit
- Reddit’s best Tinder pick-up lines
- What is Reddit Gold—and why do people give it away?
27. There’s a dating site just for redditors
Have you ever wanted to slide into a redditors’ DMs after a particularly good post? Reddmeet makes it easy. Inspired by a throwaway comment on r/lightbulb, someone created a site that “matches you based on interest in similar subreddits.” Maybe all your karma is good for something after all?
28. Reddit hurls the best insults
Have you ever wanted to be the subject of a comedy roast? Reddit offers the next big thing. At r/roastme, users submit photos of themselves to be mocked mercilessly. We’ve tried it—it’s brutal—and so has last year’s debate meme sensation Ken Bone. You’ll laugh… but you’ll mostly cry.
29. Reddit has its own stock market for memes
Some memes are inherently more dank than others. And at r/MemeEconony, redditors speculate on the value of new memes, encouraging people to “buy” or “sell” them based on their likelihood of breaking out into the mainstream with the “normies” on Facebook. They even have their own trade-style magazine, Meme Insider.
30. Redditors like to gift each other “gold”
Reddit Gold is a premium membership to the site that costs $3.99 a month and unlocks features like custom themes and ad-blocking. It’s a longstanding Reddit tradition to tip another user Gold membership as a way of showing gratitude for a particularly insightful comment or an awesome addition to a thread or community.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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