Reddit is one of the very most powerful (if not the most powerful, depending on your need) names in social media — but the site wasn’t always hugely influential, of course.
Reddit really came into its own back in 2010, when the site outpaced the then-reigning Digg after the latter underwent a disastrous redesign and users flocked in droves over to the then smaller and less prolific Reddit. But Reddit had been an up-and-comer in its own right before then, with a vibrant and diverse community and a more dynamic user experience due to the popularity and potential of subreddits. (Subreddits are the categories in which posts are placed, creating an individualized Reddit experience for each poster as they subscribe and populate their frontpages with relevant content.)
Actually, given Reddit’s known benevolence (the site is almost always behind or a massive contributor to any high-profile do-gooding campaigns on the internet), we’d actually be loath to say the site was built on “lies” — when it comes from the Good Guy Gregs that run the site, it looks more like chutzpah or moxie or some other word that is a nice way of saying a bit of good-natured manipulation.
Ars Technica references comments made recently by Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman, who says he and fellow founder Alexis Ohanian used to populate the site with content via a stable of fake users to make it look more busy:
“So the founders made a small addition to the submission page, visible only to themselves: in addition to the ‘URL’ and ‘title,’ there was ‘user’ field. Ohanian and Huffman could make up a login in the ‘user’ field, and if it wasn’t already registered by an actual person, the link would be submitted under the ghost profile. ‘That did two things,’ said Huffman. ‘It set the tone… and it made the site feel alive.’”
Reddit’s early strategy to lure users is discussed in the video below.