Reddit Tests New Profiles, Sets Potential For Personal Followers

March 22, 2017

11:20 am

Over the past few years, Reddit has seen quite a bit of change both internal and external. From leadership shake ups, to breaking away from Advance Publications (still the largest shareholder), and raising a $50 million round led by celebrities like Snoop Dogg, the site designed to aggregate news has evolved to a point where news breaks in the community. What was once a minimalistic site for people to share articles and then comment on it has since evolved to where both amazing and terrible things occur. Regardless of Reddit’s history, this week marks what may be in the company’s future: social media.

What has traditionally been labeled as an online community or forum, Reddit is now alpha testing user profiles that are akin to an old school Facebook or Twitter profile. Limited to only a very small number of users, profiles currently include a photo, the ability to follow the profile, and an area to post directly to their feed. In the past, users would create their own subreddits with the same desired effects, and profiles would simply feature their latest comments or submissions.

In a blog post, Reddit further explains where the inspiration for the new profiles came from: user empowerment. In the post they made an example of a well known user, u/shitty_watercolour, who built up a presence on Reddit for their “shitty watercolor paintings”, yet was still layers deep within the site to access his content. With the new follow feature, users will be able to see when u/shitty_watercolour posts content to his profile in the custom front page rather than clicking through to their friends tab.

To kick off the alpha test, Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian will also be among the select profiles to feature the new look. According to the announcement, Reddit admin HideHideHidden stated the goal is “to build this feature for all users but we’re starting with a small group of alpha testers.” The admin went on to acknowledge how large of a feature shift this will be for Reddit.

“If all goes well, over the course of the next few months. We want to do this roll out carefully to avoid any disruptions to existing communities. This is a major product launch for Reddit and we’re looking to the community to give us their input throughout this process.”

One of Reddit’s primary features is that it allows users to remain pseudonymous if they choose (by way of usernames). Addressing the inevitable concerns regarding user privacy head on, the announcement stated a user will still be able to carry on with the pseudonymous guise by choosing a non-identifiable profile image; however, this is Reddit’s first official step to encourage the reverse. It will also open up new revenue driving opportunities tied to brands and celebrities who often temporarily join Reddit for AMAs or in tandem with a new project or product they are promoting. In its current state, new profiles would allow a brand or company to fully control what questions even appear through the use of moderation controls.

Initial feedback to the new profile feature highlighted numerous concerns from the community regarding privacy, its similarity to other social media sites, and how users will be able to moderate or censor content on their profiles. Now on the defensive, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman and admins are fielding questions and assuring users that the new feature will not in fact result in some sort of Digg meltdown. Time will tell how the community eventually reacts when the profile feature begins to roll out in the coming months.

Currently in testing, Reddit has opened up a survey to allow other users and brands to apply to become a beta tester.

Read more about social media trends at Tech.Co.

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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