Unlike Twitter or LinkedIn, Reddit seems to have a steeper learning curve for new users, especially for those users who fall outside of the Millennial and Gen-Z cohorts. But even though it may not be as ubiquitous across generations as, say, Facebook, Reddit is still the fifth most-visited site in the United States — and it ranks 13th most-visited worldwide, according to a survey conducted by Alexa Internet in July 2019.
Founded in 2005 by then-University of Virginia students Alexis Ohanian (Serena Williams’ husband) and Steve Huffman, Reddit is a multipurpose website dealing in social news aggregation, web content rating and user discussion. Essentially, users (dubbed "redditors") create member profiles — normally kept anonymous via chat room-esque usernames — and submit content to the site, including images, text posts, links, videos and memes.
These posts are organized into user-generated boards called "subreddits," and, much like virtual folders in a virtual filing cabinet, these subreddits allow users to easily access content themed around specific topics. Looking for content about your favorite HBO series? Try the Game of Thrones subreddit, stylized as r/gameofthrones to reflect the way each subreddit’s name appears in part of its URL. Not your style? Maybe fitness topics appeal and you should check out r/fitness. Want to look at pictures of gorgeous homes from around the world? Head on over to r/cozyplaces.
That’s to say, there’s a subreddit for virtually every topic — or you can create one if it doesn’t already exist. Once users add content to a subreddit, these posts can either be "upvoted" or "downvoted" by other members. The more thumbs ups a post gets, the closer to the top of the subreddit’s page it’ll be, which means it’ll likely get more views. If a post is upvoted enough, it can appear on the site’s homepage, where it’ll get the most eyeballs on it.
Like other user-focused sites, a post’s Reddit success hinges on popularity. But even the site’s founders didn’t quite realize just how popular their platform would become. In 2006, when they were in their early 20s, Ohanian and Huffman sold the site to Condé Nast Publications for somewhere between $10 million and $20 million.
Of course, when you think of comments sections, you’re probably wary: On most sites, the comments are a minefield — populated by "trolls" and overrun with toxicity. So much so that some sites disable comments altogether. And it’s true: Reddit isn’t immune to vitriol either and has certainly made headlines for the abusive, bigoted things members have said to one another.