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Affiliate links on Reddit (reddit.com)
205 points by unlinker on May 28, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 197 comments



Every consumer site wants user generated content for free but is not willing to share a tiny bit of the revs.

This signals desperation than proper business development. Reddit should look at Snapchat: today they have a Nike filter live. This is smart monetization and gives more bucks than this affiliate hack. Besides, Reddit should have done this affiliate thing themselves and not employed Viglink. Any intermediate will not just take their cut, they take more and send lower reports in general (if a CPA deal).


I think Reddit has proven over the last decade that they have more limited options then other tech companies because of their engineering ability. Sports threads (NFL playoffs, NBA, MLB, Hockey, Football) up until maybe three years ago would unilaterally crash Reddit's servers or create large amounts of lag across the platform. It has been "solved" in recent years with an absolutely ABSURD amount of caching that is detrimental to the user experience because it will prevent the user from seeing updated content for a few minutes. They have limited streaming functionality that does not make up for this.

They hired their first CTO in 2015 and he seems to be doing a good job. But theirs no silver bullet for a legacy infrastructure especially if you add all the pressure Reddit is receiving to monetize ASAP.


Reddit's management team has created a policy of underpaying engineers, so it's no surprise to me that their technical capacity is less than stellar.


I actually think companies can get away with "underpaying" engineers if they can offer alternative benefits like great culture, lower cost-of-living, growth opportunities (career and equity value), etc..

But Reddit is a company with a laundry list of PR crises, with an office in one of the most expensive cities in the world, constantly changing leadership, constantly changing leadership goals, extremely dissatisfied investors, an estranged and angry founder, AND a reputation for underpaying engineers.

Ten bucks says they file a complaint somewhere stating "their aren't enough developers in the work force".


They didn't used to be in San Fran, and they used to support remote work, where cost of living was less of an issue, and lower salaries could stretch a lot further if (for example) an employee was working in the mid west. They had a bunch of strong advantages and an already geographically dispersed workforce and threw it away at a time when they really needed to be getting the most bang for their buck.


As far as I remember, they indeed are in severe money troubles. I guess they are, if they need to get pennies off affiliate links. Because, let's be honest here, how much money do they expect to make? My guess is that they will make around a couple thousands a month. What do they expect to do with that, especially at the expense of looking cheap as fuck?


> A couple thousand a month

I think your off by a couple orders of magnitude on that one.


Every penny counts. Even if it's only a couple of thousand every month that's part of a year of dev time paid for, who could be focussed on infrastructure efficiency etc.


> extremely dissatisfied investors,

I'm one of those investors and I'm not aware of any of my fellow investors being dissatisfied.

> an estranged and angry founder

All of the founders currently work for reddit (and are quite happy doing so as far as I know). Who are you talking about here?


I'm assuming the conditions currently occurring at Reddit would make any investor dissatisfied. Stemming from a mix of seemingly negative public opinion, seemingly rushed or short-sighted monetization strategies, and technical challenges.

Articles like this [1] seem to indicate tension between the board and leadership. I assume when any such tensions become public that they are larger in reality then they first appear, because normally such tensions remain private. Though in this case it may just be Wong's and Reddit's board's personality to be more open about such things.

It's pretty liberal for me to make these assumptions, granted. And I've made like a dozen comments on this thread mostly because:

A) my procrastination is terrible today and

B) I'm a rabid Reddit user and usually speak up whenever it comes up on Hacker News, I'm not be trying to gun down the company's throat I promise, just trying to engage in a critical discussion.

I would change extremely dissatisfied to dissatisfied though, but the edit option isn't appearing to me right now (time limit or "tree-weight" I guess).

[1]:http://gawker.com/former-reddit-ceo-youre-all-screwed-171790...


Who would they file such a complaint against? Do they write it on an index card and drop it in a box in front of the US Department of Labor or something? I'm confused by the premises of this bet. They're a teeny tiny company with < 100 employees and people talk about them like they're Standard Oil circa 1890, twirling their mustaches and engaging in Dynasty-level interpersonal corporate drama. It's literally just a small group of (probably mostly twentysomething) people sitting in a small clump of office space in SF, regardless of how significant the thing that they maintain is to so many people. I don't know how they manage to even keep the lights on given how much traffic they get, much less the crap they have to deal with on a regular basis from many of their users.

I don't doubt that there's a laundry list of corporate dysfunction at Reddit HQ, but even the most seemingly universal complaints I see people post about seem more like collaborative storytelling exercises where a bunch of people are getting each other worked up into a frothy rage over stuff that just really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. The pitchforks-and-torches mob mentality I've occasionally seen on Reddit is way more damaging to those communities than anything I've ever heard of regarding the company leadership.


The last legitimate valuation for Reddit was $500M in 2014. They are not a teeny tiny company. And as far as Reddit's competency being heavily editorialized, I'd agree, but if you google a prospective employer and get ten pages of shit it's enough to get the wheels turning against joining the company, which is the question at hand.


Which also reminds me that I do want to push to support Yishan-style CEOs in the future, regardless of what happens to Reddit.


Relevant:

"Reddit board member and YC president Sam Altman announced that Yishan Wong was leaving after being unable to garner support for a proposal to move the Reddit office from San Francisco to Daly City.[12] Wong, who thought newer employees would prefer to work in a less expensive area, stated that before the disagreement he had considered leaving due to an abundance of stress."[1]

[1]:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yishan_Wong

Edit:

That quote is a little disingenuous, and you can read more about the situation in these links if you're curious. The Quora link is the ex-CEOs response which puts a good frame on things.

[2]:http://techcrunch.com/2014/11/13/ex-reddit-ceo-wanted-to-mov...

[3]https://www.quora.com/Why-did-Yishan-Wong-resign-as-Reddit-C...

Edit2: It's also telling just how many people were championing Ellen Pao as the replacement. I have to think nobody really knows who'll be a good CEO until after the fact.

[4]:https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8603845


Not to mention they have these weird urges to completely control their userbase, to the point where people are creating services like go1dfish or uneddit to see posts that were deleted - and most of the time the posters didn't even break any rules. It's just toxic atmosphere for everyone.


> theirs

*there's


I think Reddit provides those consumers with a forum for their content which otherwise would not be seen by as many people, and therefore defends its value up front.

The contributors on the other hand get to use reddit for free. Sure, many of them could publish OC on their own websites and get hits. A lot of them, no one would care, because their content is only interesting in the context of the reddit culture and hivemind (this is especially true for comments).

Lets not forget how much traffic reddit could drive to your personal site or blog, either.

I am surprised it took reddit so long to do something so simple to generate money.


Can you imagine Reddit's community responding to an equivalent of the Nike filter in a way which helped rather than harmed the brand? For the most part, I can't.


> Every consumer site wants user generated content for free but is not willing to share a tiny bit of the revs.

As a user, I feel that I get value from participating on Reddit (as I do here). If I didn't, I wouldn't participate. I'm not looking to get paid.


Not only that, but I would think if Reddit participants did get paid, surely the quality (such as it is) would go way down as everyone would be even more incentivized towards producing clickbait comments and stories.

I'm actually amazed that Reddit continues to even exist given how much traffic it gets every day and how little income it must get from what (relatively) few ads it serves. I don't know what this massive cashflow is that people think they're entitled to tap into.


Snapchat's revenue for 2015 was reportedly $59M [0] which does not seem to support their current valuation of $18B. i am not sure if they did native advertising in 2015 like the nike example you suggested.

i suspect that they are going to have to get _significantly_ more aggressive with advertising or come up with a different business model altogether.

[0] http://techcrunch.com/2016/05/26/snapchat-series-f/


they are going to have to get _significantly_ more aggressive with advertising

Only if their monetization plan is being led by someone from a news site. Snapchat being what it is, they would be smarter to sell less for more. That is, if you don't have (much) advertising and a lot of demand, the little real estate you do cede to monetization is more valuable. They don't have to do takeovers.


Look at how fast they're monetizing: https://tctechcrunch2011.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/snapcha... (from the article). I'm sure the first half of 2016 has been insane.


There are sites that do this. For example, Tsu did this as a social network. Digitalpoint was a forum that used to do stuff like this with ad revenue sharing, and other forums installed the add on for it too.

The problem is twofold:

1. If you're massively successful, then revenue sharing creates huge incentives for spam. Hence you often get people posting links to their content all over the place (especially on rival sites), at which point your brand gets seen as sleazy and your domain often added to a lot of blocklists. You also get a lot of low quality users signing up to post junk in the hope x amount of people click their ads or affiliate links. Digitalpoint got flooded with one liners and gibberish from people in poorer countries and ended up losing most of its more respected users in the process.

2. Revenue sharing often breaks down to a very, very limited amount of money for anyone using the site. Social networks and forums are not the best for ad clickthrough rates or affiliate links, This varies based on how exactly the users are paid (per discussion, per post, per video/image, etc), but it generally isn't enough for anyone to live on unless either got really low expenses or the site itself is ridiculously massive. That's why new sites don't do it.


They aren't overwriting existing affiliate links.


>Reddit should look at Snapchat

I don't think Reddit should take advice from the company that has never been profitable (not that Reddit had been profitable, mind you).

And affiliate links are actually known to be profitable, there are countless of sites that exist solely off affiliate links.

"Nike filter", you must be kidding me. Nobody wants to put goddamn ads on their photos.


> "Nike filter", you must be kidding me. Nobody wants to put goddamn ads on their photos.

Plenty of people want to put certain kinds of ads on their photos, and are happy to do so!


Reddit should look at Snapchat: today they have a Nike filter live. This is smart monetization and gives more bucks than this affiliate hack.

So Reddit should offer a photo filter feature? This comparison is hard to comprehend since their features are so different.


> This is smart monetization and gives more bucks than this affiliate hack.

Do you have any numbers on that matter?


Just a feeling. It's really very hard to get major brands like Nike as advertisers on board. Why: they want a perfect environment. A positive one and a premium brand which fits to them and a great audience. And not to forget a HUGE reach. Once you have all of these PLUS contacts to the right media agencies then you get good deals based on CPM. The less you as a publisher can offer the more you end with CPC or even crappy CPA deals where you never know if the intermediate evades your commissions.

Just look around, usually advertisers pair themselves with publishers with a similar brand awareness and quality. Eg Nike or BMW won't advertise on Reddit or Facebbok because there would be a too strong asymmetry between advertisers' and publishers' brands. Nike and BMW would rather place and position themselves to eg the next James Bond movie from Sony (=> similar brand perception).

Reddit is the typical publisher that is avoided by a lot of major advertisers. The brand and the audience is maybe too heterogenous and inconsistent. While a sub like Photshopbattles might be positive and funny many other subs like Gonewild (which is huge btw) give Reddit a mixed perception. However, doing a deal with Viglink shows that they must have tried everything before (to get deals with major brands) but finally resigned and go now the affiliate path.

There is one good thing about affiliate marketing though: ad blockers do not harm your business.


> There is one good thing about affiliate marketing though: ad blockers do not harm your business.

They can if you use something like Viglink. That's another reason to roll your own solution. Really don't understand why they decided to go through them just to avoid a bit of regex.


Why roll your own first when you can use an out of box solution to see if the monetization is a good strategy before investing engineer time into it?

If it's a good fit they can always roll their own later. Hell, they may be rolling their own right now but wanted to start capturing the additional revenue at a lower margin immediately.

>just to avoid a bit of regex

I've never heard of Viglink and am too lazy to google, but I'd wager the real value provided by the company isn't adding affiliate codes, but rather strong analytics features allowing you to optimize revenue across different affiliates etc.


It's the regex and the fact you can partner with any retailer automatically without individually applying to all of their affiliate programs. Reddit surely surely are implementing an in house solution (or maybe I'm giving their management too much credit)


Good enough is often good enough. Why shove non-trivial amounts of engineering effort into it when you can take advantage of a service?

If there's enough money in it then maybe it would be justifiable to put engineering effort into it themselves. In the mean time "free money" for minimal effort.


> Why shove non-trivial amounts of engineering effort into it

because it's more fun


> because it's more fun

Seriously? You think that's a good criteria to judge it on?


They can not afford it.


> Nike filter live

What is that?


I was never bothered by the Pinterest:

Affiliate links are added if none are present.


Every consumer site wants user generated content for free but is not willing to share a tiny bit of the revs.

I don't think there will be much revenue to share. It's too easy to get around this. Link to your own page, and redirect to your affiliate offer. Anyone that takes affiliate marketing on Reddit seriously will be doing this, so I doubt this will generate much revenue for Reddit.


They aren't editing links that already have an affiliate though, it only adds an affiliate if the link doesn't already have one.


You're right. I only read the announcement, which implied that they would be rewriting all links. I didn't see until just now that this was addressed in the comments.


Reddit HQ, in a not too distant future:

HighUpManager: "We aren't hitting our expected KPI's, we need to find ways to increase affiliate revenue. Is there any way we can increase affiliate-link exposure?"

MiddleManager: "Well, I guess I could have my team modify the ranking algorithm so that our affiliate links rise to the front-page faster and stay there longer. However..."

HighUpManager: "Great! Make it so."


Is that what happened to Digg?


If I remember right, Digg was a combination of changing the UI drastically in a way that most everyone hated, combined with "power users" having disproportionate ability in getting posts visible.


It's not just that, the new UI hooked the marketers directly in as feeds. So a blog or publication would be something you'd "follow" and upvotes/downvotes as you like. This scared the power users who were no longer the submitters, and also balkanized the experience and gave ghe users the impression they sold out to the actual content creators instead of the users.


Simultaneous with this, they even disabled the comment history. Like you couldn't see what you had commented or what peoples' replies were, unless you were in the thread.

Took several months to get that back, and by then it was too late - all the real content creators had moved to Reddit.


> If I remember right, Digg was a combination of changing the UI drastically in a way that most everyone hated

Although this is common belief, Digg was on the decline well before v4 was released. v4 was a response to the decline, not the cause of it.

They mistakenly attributed the site's decline to the rise of social media apps like Twitter, and v4's was their attempt to become the "Twitter for news".

It's true that Digg didn't do enough to foster a healthy community; threads were often toxic, and yes the top users had too much sway. What's forgotten is some of the dumb things they did to try and monetize, like that full-site ads (background image ads) that I'm pretty sure everyone hates.


Even though Digg was on decline, it was still bigger than reddit. It could've still been a significant site today, or at least something like Slashdot. The day v4 was released, it singlehandedly killed Digg. It was a bloodbath never seen before, or since.


> Even though Digg was on decline, it was still bigger than reddit

It most definitely was not. reddit was already bigger than Digg long before v4 was launched. v4 did cause a bump in reddit's traffic, but it wasn't nearly as significant as people think. Most Digg users were already reddit users too. In fact, a lot of the power users were getting their stories from reddit.

That's why at the time the joke was that if you wanted to see a summary of reddit the day before, you just looked at Digg.


I was going to post it feels like the last days of Digg, but thought I'd check the comments first

It's unfortunate Reddit can't leave a working formula alone - HN has barely changed in 7 years - I really respect the control that must have taken - the lack of category filters on HN means I always need some other source

I do hope this and the imgur change last week doesn't mark the start of the end but it's probably time for a new player ... CIX -> Usenet/Dejanews -> Digg -> Reddit -> ??


I totally agree, I feel like this is the beginning of the end for Reddit. There's also a bunch of other recent changes that make me feel like Reddit is starting to work hard on monetisation but will struggle to do this and maintain the 'vibe' they've had to date. For the record it's right that they seek to make money...they're not a charity.

Having said that I think comparing Reddit to HN is a bit unfair. The HN forums are is a happy byproduct of a successful VC firm. Hacker News forums could be switched off tomorrow and Y Combinator would almost certainly continue successfully. As far as I'm aware they generate zero revenue from the forums, in fact, it's probably impossible (or at least very hard) to measure any ROI on the forums.


> It's unfortunate Reddit can't leave a working formula alone

Working for who? They're not making money, so the service is unsustainable. It has to change.


There's no way a text-only site with 100% user generated content can't be maintained profitably with a traditional ad sales team. They're going for a bigger play, which is fine, but there are definitely easier strategies to sustain a smaller team.


During the censorship fiasco a lot of people moved onto voat.


Check voat's homepage, and look how many upvotes do links have. It's dead, for the most part, although I guess very small communities (like those coming from /r/niggers, or /r/fatpeoplehate) are there to stay. But there is not much more to it.


Voat can have some good content in the sections for general gaming, tech, etc, since it's small enough that the spammers don't seem to be as common. That said, it's not really active enough to be anyone's primary social media/bookmarking platform, and that tends to mean that anything not super popular or controversial is pretty much completely dead there.


So voat is like 4chan but without the charming community?


If you share their ideas, it's charming, believe me. I can assure you hate unites more than love.


>HN has barely changed in 7 years

HN maintenance cost is orders of magnitude smaller. Also it is losing money and nobody cares because this is just like a pet project for YC.


I remember Kevin Rose saying something about "Digg not being something my mom could use." In an effort to grow the audience, v4 was trying to be more of a source for all news and less of interesting links that were posted and dug up by tech geeks. Major news outlets automatically had their headlines inserted into the site and completely changed the character of what Digg was. Unfortunately, being a mainstream news site for tech geeks wasn't enough.


This is maybe the real danger here. The idea in general didn't bother me at first, but I hadn't thought of these implications.


They will not be overwriting any existing affiliate codes. If this helps them keep the lights on, I say go for it.

https://www.reddit.com/r/changelog/comments/4ldk0r/reddit_ch...


Of concern is that they are using a third party affiliate network. That means tracking and selling you.


Well, I mean, I don't pay to use Reddit, and there's no such thing as a free lunch... so if this helps keep Reddit afloat, I guess it doesn't really bother me that much?


Perhaps this should be default opt-out for reddit gold users?


The problem I have with it is I've seen third party affiliates do incredibly shady stuff. Companies like Amazon, Google, Reddit, do shady stuff too, but they at least have some interest in keeping a good public image. Third-party companies however live in the shadow and could give two fucks how far they push user privacy protections, if they even give them any credence in the first place.


I am interested in knowing more about this shady stuff..a few examples, please? Merci!


Wage collusion at Google, Warehouse worker conditions at Amazon, and censorship at Reddit. I'm more critiquing the morality of the companies themselves, and my real argument is that third party affiliates are often completely unknown, and therefore cannot be held accountable the same way the larger companies can.


I have mixed feelings toward the wage collusion among tech firms. The issue is driven by a dearth of high skilled employees and a large demand. As an employer, I totally get a no poaching approach. As a employer, I also understand what is occurring now -- stunningly high payouts to poach an employee. The pool roble is that nirvana is not achievable as long as humans behave like humans. Employees criticize the ethics of employers. Employers criticize the ethics if employees. That will not change. The only viable approach, imho, is to truly and seriously consider the long term reactions to all decisions and to choose the one that causes the best outcome. I truly believe that we all try to do our best .. even those of us who run companies. But it is a two way street. I can assure you that I have grown over the years to a place I thought I would never be -- distrust in employees. I have experienced employee theft, lies, laziness, personal choices that result in poor work, and nore. I could easily question the morality of most employees. My point is that we cannot create a world of employers and employees that are all good all of the time or even the majority of the time.


Of course there is. Food grows on trees. You pick it and eat. It runs around. Kill it and grill it.


Tracking, yes, sure. Wouldn't work otherwise. But other than that, don't expect to be harassed by retargeting ads run by the affiliate network or something. As far as I know, this is not done at all.

Besides, all affiliate networks are (by definition) third party. In many cases, it's just not worthwhile for the merchant/advertiser to setup a custom tracking and billing solution.


There is a difference in reddit handing an affiliate referal code to say Amazon and a party between reddit and Amazon.


Yes, that's true. Then again, Amazon is kind of an exception because they run and host their affiliate program in-house. Most other shops don't (and therefore would require some sort of third party affiliate network).


At least they claim that "VigLink is contractually obligated not to store any Reddit user information."


Which is totally why they went with the very simple implementation of rewriting links in users posts. This way, VigLink works in the background and the user never interacts with them.

...

Oh wait, they instead decide to tunnel all clicks through their own infrastructure? At massive cost and complexity? I wonder why they decided on this implementation, huh.


The affiliate tracking payloads are a disgrace - someone like Google really needs to build an affiliate tracking proxy where the host can opt-in to what client information is passed to affiliates and all affiliates use that source only

So many big brands are running multiple tags taking down more client info than Google Analytics - and then asking why pages are taking 5s+ to render


I hope people are checking this is actually true. Websites have made this claim when introducing VigLink before and it's turned out not to be the case.


Why on Earth would they go through Viglink, rather than modifying the URLs themselves? Is it that hard to add `&tag=reddit` to the end of an amazon.com url?


My guesses are:

1) Maybe Viglink offered a deal to get exposure. I never heard of them until today.

2) They claim to cover 30k merchants.[1] Maybe there is a lot of money for reddit in the 29,999 other sellers too.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VigLink


Vigilink also offers a great short term solution to help them get this out the door, and figure out how much they can make. In the future, they can do the math, and pretty easily decide if it's worth taking the time to rewrite the urls / manage a bunch of affiliate programs themselves to increase their margin.


VigLink's value to Reddit is likely in the ability to tag a very long tail of non-Amazon merchants.


Rewriting links for dozens, or even hundreds, of networks is trivial, it's just just a bunch of regexes. Creating dozens of affiliate accounts and managing them is the actual annoying part.


Weird. Also, Amazon links are not part of the program: https://www.reddit.com/r/changelog/comments/4ldk0r/reddit_ch...


It's a maintenance nightmare. And using services like viglink your code only deals with a single provider, like you say, you add a single tag and it works with plenty of metchants.

Potentially this also opens for other use cases such as substituting the product name with a link to buy, maybe useful in some specific subreddits.


I think this is a great attempt by Reddit to become sustainable that isn't purely based on display advertising.

I personally dislike affiliate links just like most others but unlike ads they don't ruin my browsing experience and are generally very transparent.

The real issue here in my opinion is how this was announced, as a "we're doing this, FYI". I'd instead open up a discussion with mods of large communities to get feedback and once they understand the goal get them to show support.

And if they had gone the route of involving large communities they could have also done a tiny rev share, similar to how YouTube compensates content creators.


I have to say, I vehemently disagree on all points.

The largest valid reason people dislike affiliate links is because it changes the motivation for posting. When you see someone recommend a product behind an affiliate link, you can be certain that they are motivated in part by money. That may not be the whole reason; they could very well be recommending the product because they actually believe in it, but you only know for sure that they intend to make money off the recommendation.

A secondary reason people don't like affiliate links is because people don't like the idea of someone "making money off of" them. In my opinion, this is kind of irrational. It doesn't cost the user anything extra.

Interestingly, Reddit's plan is pure in this regard. They are simply making money off recommendations people are already making. Their not posting the affiliate links, they're simply seizing the opportunity presented when someone else honestly and organically links to a product.

Lastly, you mention a revenue share. Ironically, this proposal would do what you are actually concerned about: incentivize users to post something inauthentic which they normally wouldn't. I think your proposed solution would actually turn this non-issue into the very issue you're trying to prevent in the first place!

In the interest of full disclosure, I run websites which profit from affiliate links. I suspect my opinion would be the same if I didn't, however.


I see your points, but I think you are speaking about this at a higher level that isn't necessarily specific to this particular implementation.

I agree that when used by the direct posters, affiliate links cause a misalignment of incentive because the poster isn't necessarily adding value to the community but rather to their affiliate account. This can be done very naively or be abused. Users suffer both ways.

This however isn't the case here IMO because if Reddit is auto tagging all links the posters are pretty much in the same boat that they were of Reddit hadn't tagged those links.

You could say that because this is a revenue channel for Reddit they'd optimize tagged posts over non tagged ones when promoting content. That however mostly gets resolved by the same logic as above, plus we all know how stuff gets to the top of Reddit...

Lastly, communities making some revenue is, again, not a misalignment. Using the same logic as above, all auto tagged links are again just links. Hence, a community that generates good content would get some revenue. It's pretty straight forward in my opinion.

Lastly, most affiliates pay commission on sales and not impressions (and if they do it's really tiny). So the context and the targeting are the most important pieces.


> unlike ads they don't ruin my browsing experience

It's yet another piece of javascript that connects to some other site that will cause degraded responsiveness. Worse when Viglink's servers are unreachable.


The ads on reddit ruin your browsing experience?


Ads in most contexts are intrusive and more often than not aren't targeted and irrelevant. Yes, they ruin the experience.

They rarely ruin it enough that is just close the tab and not use the site, but that doesn't really mean anything. If we can do without them I think we should.


As an online entrepreneur I am curious as to why you dislike affiliates?


Because it changes the motivation for recommending recommending a product when you're getting paid for it. The perverse incentive structure is why most of Reddit bans them.

In Reddit's case, it means they have an incentive to silently promote posts and comments that have affiliate links because it makes them money.

If a review of a product has affiliate links then I'll immediately distrust the review because it's not possible for me to know whether they actually like the product or because they get paid if they convince people to like it.


I have so many reactions to these thoughts that I hardly know where to start! My first reaction is that this means all sales functions are to not be trusted. Is that accurate for you?


Primarily because when they are done at the post level, meaning, when those that post add them there's a misalignment of incentive in many cases.

In this case however, since the posters aren't putting them in there's no incentive.


It is kind of strange that online shops are in with this. I mean the links are there anyway, there is no additional benefit for the shops but they still have to pay additional costs in that way.


I wonder what's in it for Amazon to continue with affiliate links. It was clever in the early days when Amazon wanted everyone to link/visit Amazon and were willing to give out free money to achieve that. But now it's Amazon paying to maintain a network of spammers, click hijackers and dishonest reviewers. What's in it for Amazon now?


I guess it could be free promotion, is not unusual for respected sites to publish affiliate links to Amazon.

MercadoLibre, one of the biggest ecommerce platform in latam, had an affiliate program, but they cut it when they were "big enough".


I think about this frequently, but they recently revamped their associates screens after years of not touching them at all. So I'd say there is a bit more roadmap.

My best answer is that right now, they realize it's best not to ruin a great thing. They're on top of the world, things are going well, why rock the boat?


I think those same things are still incentivizing the program.


It's a bit of a weird thing that's happening, but you're right - there isn't a direct incremental benefit. BUT - like many economic systems, it's about competition. Yes, yesterday it was free to have a link coming back to your site, but today one of your competitors is upping the bid for that link from 0% to 5%. You can either continue to pay 0%, but you might find that your competitors links get more traffic than yours, so you'll need to either up your bid or accept the new reality.


But the person "selling" the link is not the same as the person posting it. If I link to something on reddit, I get paid $0 either way, so there's no reason for me to choose an affiliated merchant over a non-affilated one. In fact, I won't even know which ones are or aren't participating.


Somewhat true. The question is basically, "what's the incremental value?", especially since all those links would be posted nonetheless.

I guess it might make sense to view this as some sort of avoided opportunity cost: reddit could potentially redirect existing product links (say, to a CPU at Newegg) to a different shop.


That's a really valid point, especially if they agree not to collect additional personal information...

My guess is that they kind of have to because they have an agreement with the 3rd party that's handling this.


It's only odd if the traffic to affiliated sites is not mysteriously increasing.


Vigilink sits between them, the shop doesn't have to be explicitly in on it.


Well. Kind of all the big affiliate networks have opt-out options, and reddit for sure will generate enough traffic to get noticed.


From reading through that thread it seems this is being done with JS, so the links still look like before but when you click them, something else happens to cause a redirect. IMHO that's not very honest behaviour, but fortunately sounds easy to block.

However, I have a feeling that some of the users will simply start rewriting links to not look like links.

http://superuser.com/questions/513323/how-to-open-hxxp-or-ot...


Are they allowed to do that under US law? Don't affiliate links have to be marked as such?

EDIT: Here's what the FTC says: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftc...

> I’m an affiliate marketer with links to an online retailer on my website. When people read what I’ve written about a particular product and then click on those links and buy something from the retailer, I earn a commission from the retailer. What do I have to disclose? Where should the disclosure be?

> If you disclose your relationship to the retailer clearly and conspicuously on your site, readers can decide how much weight to give your endorsement.

> In some instances – like when the affiliate link is embedded in your product review – a single disclosure may be adequate. When the review has a clear and conspicuous disclosure of your relationship and the reader can see both the review containing that disclosure and the link at the same time, readers have the information they need. You could say something like, “I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.” But if the product review containing the disclosure and the link are separated, readers may lose the connection.

> As for where to place a disclosure, the guiding principle is that it has to be clear and conspicuous. The closer it is to your recommendation, the better. Putting disclosures in obscure places – for example, buried on an ABOUT US or GENERAL INFO page, behind a poorly labeled hyperlink or in a “terms of service” agreement – isn’t good enough. Neither is placing it below your review or below the link to the online retailer so readers would have to keep scrolling after they finish reading. Consumers should be able to notice the disclosure easily. They shouldn’t have to hunt for it.

> Is “affiliate link” by itself an adequate disclosure? What about a “buy now” button?

> Consumers might not understand that “affiliate link” means that the person placing the link is getting paid for purchases through the link. Similarly, a “buy now” button would not be adequate.


This is a good point, and it's also one of the reasons a lot of 'news sites', blogs and Youtube channels are getting a lot of criticism, because they don't seem to be interested in following FTC (or other country equivalent) rules for disclosure.

Unfortunately, neither the FTC nor their equivalents elsewhere seem to be particularly good at enforcing these rules, so a lot of unscrupulous sites (and as in this case, many large ones) just ignore them altogether.


I'm genuinely surprised to see that someone had made laws/rules about this.

Seem impossible to enforce and frankly a little overbearing.


First imgur, then reddit. I hope voat is readying their servers for the traffic spike.


One look at voat.co's frontpage was enough for me to simply add the domain to my blocker. Nothing but filth, looked like only the bad bits of reddit.


The only time I've seen people say they're moving to Voat is when they get fed up of being banned for being idiot racists (e.g. nazis, white supremacists etc.) or misogynists.


That is why sites like Voat and 8chan were created - people believed Reddit and 4chan were too strict and politically correct.


And then on the flip side you have Imzy, for people who believe Reddit is insufficiently strict and politically correct. Options are a good thing, I think.


Imzy is slow and boring. Looks like a second system effect version of Reddit + Digg.


I'm on Imzy. I don't hate it but also don't like it. However, I love the art themes.


Hah. Everytime Reddit ownership does anything, the response is "voat". Some people like profitability and moderating away racists and paedophiles.


My BMI is too high for Voat. :-(


I can totally understand this intent, but back when I was looking into something similar for forums, I found that doing so was generally against the TOS of places like Amazon?


Is there an opt-in/out button clearly visible in the early section of your profile / settings? If not reddit would be considered clickbait and this would cause a huge drop in user and social attendance and lost revenue. This move is more than foolish.


Why would the addition of affiliate tags cause any drop in user engagement?


Digital privacy is bigger in the news right now, it's on every countries agenda and to put the icing on the cake an example like affiliate tags is something that's trivial explain to non-technical people.

When a social media (always in the media) site that's well known starts tracking user links and proving that to any third parties - the argument from reddit will be that it's A) Anonymous and B) Secure - both of which are hot topics which are quickly starting starting to be disassembled by the general public - undoubtedly reddit will either be wrapped up in it which could be financially costly or publicisd and will likely turn off users.

Seems like a very odd time to be making a move like this.


Do you have a suggestion on how they can earn revenue from their service in a way that does not cause you to object?


I haven't given any thought to this, I'd probably need to understand their current profit model and high level expenses to get a proper picture.


It is an interesting issue for all online content providers. If you are in ecommerce, that sector us in trouble because of the monopolies allowed online...thus going down that path is a gamble loaded against you. Amazon and eBay have made it nigh impossible to build your own brand outside of your community. Meanwhile everyone wants great content but subscription models, display ads, affiliate ads are disliked and ad blockers are rampant. When you eliminate pops to earn some green against a background of increasing costs associated with employees, I see a terrible outlook for the future of online for all content sites and the reduction of the net to the few big boys who aggregate retail and brochure sites that are skin to business cards. We ate truly in a pivotal time that I see is a massive change online. It is not just a Reddit issue. It is everywhere. Eager to hear what consumers and readers would support.


My main issue with this is that this is some behavior that is typically present in malware. Why is it acceptable when a website you visit does this, but unacceptable when an application you download an use does this?

This seems very underhanded. I really don't think I'll support this. I think I may need to write a Chrome/Firefox extension that grabs all of those links and rewrites them to be affiliate links to a charity.


One can also opt out of VigLink via http://www.viglink.com/opt-out/ so that's an option too if you don't appreciate this change.


This is not the way to opt-out because you have to keep their cookies on your system. The only real way to opt-out is to strip the links and prevent the redirect.


Opting out in your reddit preferences would be ok if it was possible...


Voat, Imzy, and Hacker News are pretty obsessed with Reddit.


Well Reddit is one of the most popular websites in the world, so it makes sense no?


Digg we go.


Hopefully sooner rather than later.


And then?


Why not try to resurrect k5?


I know it's one of those 'tabs or spaces' questions, but are there any decent alternatives to Reddit?

I've tried Voat, but it's literally just Reddit.

The world needs a p2p, anonymity-first, censorship resistant link-sharing and discussion site/app/thing.

If anyone could point in some such direction, I sure would appreciate it.


"but are there any decent alternatives to Reddit?"

You're on it. You're using it right now. This is it.

I've been an active user and contributor to (in order) local BBS, Fidonet, Usenet, Slashdot, Kuro5hin, digg/reddit, HN, and in my opinion, HN is the best, most interesting and functional discussion board that has ever existed.

Enjoy it! It won't last forever.


HN is too limited in scope to be compared to reddit.


HN is very profoundly limited in scope and capabilities.

Simple stuff like collapsing long comment threads would be a Very Nice Plus, f'rex.

I've been on nearly all the platforms you've mentioned. The early ones (BBSes, Usenet) were tiny in comparison. Slashdot always kinda sucked for moderation, though its editorial curation was more useful than people today appreciate. Kuro5hin had some good ideas but ultimately never gained traction. I actually skipped digg. I use reddit, and like it for some elements, but it also frustrates me.

My interests are more toward a bloggy-oriented discussion platform, and the mix of capabilities, community, and hosting (free is unfortunately where I'm at for now), is hard to find.

I'm actually warming back on blogs, with self-hosted static-site systems being particularly attractive.


I really like hn, but it is more like a subreddit, than an actual reddit alternative.


HN censoring is terrifyingly rampant, dang is an extremely egotistic, and objectively biased moderator. I don't disagree that HN is capable of producing interesting conversations, but it's a very limited window imo. HN suffers greatly from one of the major problems that plagues Reddit, and that's the hivemind effect that threads seem to have. I was a great fan of Slashdot because it was possible to see multiple threads with different opinions from a parent topic, but on HN, whatever the hivemind agrees with floats the top and the rest sinks like a rock. That people think HN is even close to a balanced platform is somewhat concerning.


The difference though, is that HN clearly does not claim to be an uncensored free for all. HN has a very strong focus, and strong rules. They want a very limited window, and that's not a bad thing. I think that will help them stick around for a long time.

But that makes reddit and HN an apples to oranges comparison. They aren't even trying to be the same thing.

My personal concern, is that there is no reddit replacement that has a broad focus. All of the alternatives seem to be racist shit-holes, or fluffy, clearly manufactured facebook-feed alternatives.


>> HN censoring is terrifyingly rampant, dang is an extremely egotistic, and objectively biased moderator.

Sigh...alright, I'll bite. Can you give a concrete example of HN censoring in effect?


One of the cases was banning of michaelochurch ( https://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/ ), who was heavily criticizing YC, Paul Graham, and VCs in general and was relatively popular, banned for swearing or something like that. While many of his posts are extremely negative, some of them have ideas worth considering.


I don't have any concrete examples, so this answer likely won't satisfy you.

Also, I must mention that dang has been significantly more fair the past year or so. It's been a long while since I've really noticed any of the issues I'm about to list.

From least to most concerning:

1. A couple of years ago, dang would regularly wade into gender arguments. And he'd apologize publicly and profusely to women who had unspecific complaints about Hacker News making them feel "unsafe", assuring those women that he felt their pain and would fix the problem.

2. Rules about tone were enforced unevenly. (Again, to be clear, they're now enforced far more fairly.)

Cruel, over-the-top, mean-spirited, Shanley-style [1] derogatory posts from feminist activists would routinely be allowed to stand. People would respond asking why this tone was being allowed on HN, and others would respond with "it's oppressive to tone-police women in tech". Despite all the attention drawn to these posts, they would not be moderated.

At the same time, the slightest acerbic replies against feminist activism were either "deaded" or publicly admonished by dang.

3. This last point is the most difficult to prove, but regular lurkers will know exactly what I'm talking about. Flags were enforced unevenly—they were used as an excuse to minimize community exposure to posts that disagreed with dang's politics.

When a controversial submission that ran counter to the feminist narrative quickly disappeared off the front page despite hundreds of comments, people would complain in the thread (because where else would they complain?). He'd respond, "Hey, this submission received a lot of flags. This wasn't my decision. I'm not closing this thread, so you can continue discussion. But I'm listening to the community by taking it off the front page."

However, controversial submissions that promoted the feminist narrative would often stay up for hours. Those posts undoubtably received tons of flags, too. When people would complain, dang would explain that he would disregard flags for controversial posts if they generated important conversations.

[1]: http://www.breitbart.com/london/2014/12/10/the-madness-of-qu...


If you say something that could be labelled as conservative (something racist, or something about family values vs. homosexuality, or mentioning men and women are not equal in some way, etc) your comment will be killed by dang himself, and he'll say you're being inflammatory.

It's funny how this creates an echo chamber where nobody in real life is racist, or where you believe yourself that something remotely racist is wrong.


being insensitive is now being conflated with being racist/sexist etc etc


I wouldn't describe myself as a dang fan, but egotistic? Sure, he's just a low-ranking enforcer used to shield YC from criticism, but he's just doing his job. It's not exactly his fault, as a pawn, if the overall system is poisoned.

But as to the rest of it, yeah, the HN hivemind is insane in exactly the same way Startup Culture is a sick, greedy mess.


>The world needs a p2p, anonymity-first, censorship resistant link-sharing and discussion site/app/thing

Every single time that's been tried it tanked because either pathological arseholes overwhelmed everyone else, or no-one wanted to use it.

But since you ask for an example that you can use: The "free" hierarchy of Usenet. It was set up to have no rules.


> Every single time that's been tried it tanked because either pathological arseholes overwhelmed everyone else, or no-one wanted to use it.

Absolutely. I once ran a community that grew from 5 to 50 to 300+ people, and had this utopian vision that moderation wouldn't be necessary, we were intelligent, enlightened people who would have healthy discussions and hash out our disagreements in civil ways.

Alas.


AH, the FIRST dream of any mod.

That said, moderation and moderation tools - especially on reddit, are evolving. To the point that many issues which I thought were fatal, are now manageable (such as permanent noise to signal ratio attenuation).

Unfortunately what keeps me up at night, is that the tools we are developing are straight up censorship bots and their proliferation on various subreddits, and eventually to all social platforms is beyond worrisome.

Theres big brother, and then theres the more agile and nimble little brother.


Here's an idea that's probably naive and that's been tried before and failed: what about individual moderation?

Let users decide: "I never want to see anything from that guy ever again" (unless, say, 50 people I've upvoted upvote one of his comments).

I can see why people would want to avoid such solution, with all the "filter bubble" rhetoric, but I can't see why it wouldn't be a viable option?

In fact, I'm pretty sure there's a huge opportunity in that space, for whoever nails the mechanics correctly.


Slashdot has that with their friend-foe feature. You could assign anywhere between a +2 and -2 bonus to anyone you friended or foed. Additionally you could assign bonuses to anyone that friended or foed you. Comments only had a score range of +5 to -2 with -2 being completely hidden. So someone you foed at -2 could only show up for you if his comment got a +3. (Default view threshold is 1.)


> Additionally you could assign bonuses to anyone that friended or foed you.

I just some nostalgia for /. from this comment. People who friended or foed you were "fans" and "freaks", respectively.


RES etc have this, but there are millions of users; thus I have never used it because the idea of going down that rabbit hole is rather off-putting. I like your basic premise though.

There is a lot of space between reddit's "everything the mods let you see" (whether you want it or not) and facebook's "only what your friends (or Zuck) want you to see", and the two extremes cause a lot of friction. Something much better is certainly possible.


This is tricky because the desirable attributes that we're looking for in a utopian discussion medium all have dark downsides. Privacy and security require impenetrable anonymity... which in turn means that abusive users can simply abandon one troll or sock puppet account and pop up with another.

As with Usenet, you'd end up having to buy a bigger hard drive just to keep your killfile up to date.


Sounds like this would be a solution for a small community with a low growth rate. At any scale the chances of you running into a particular user diminishes. "Ignoring" 20% of a 100 member community isn't too difficult. But if that community is >500 suddenly that becomes quite a burden.



That's how Hubski works and it's pretty great. However I'm not sure it would scale well if it had as many users as reddit.


Hubski importantly applies that in a positive sense too. I only get content from users I actively choose to follow. There can be entire subcultures represented on the site that I will never be aware of.


At what population level did things start to go noticeably South?


For me, it happened at 325 users of a community group. Pia for sure. I truly wish people were more like cats sometimes -- a quick swipe and then friends again. :-)


It would get progressively 'worse' I think from 150, 200, 250, 300. The group eventually 'died' at 300. I should've instituted clearer rules and moderations once we hit about 75, or frankly, from day 1.


That's because the people doing it think that decentralisation, privacy and censorship are primary features that will sell any old bullshit facebook clone site instead of being nice secondary or tertiary features underlying some new idiom that are transparent to users.

Even if you managed that and then managed somehow to get funding to grow and scale for a system with no obvious revenue opportunities history shows us you are still likely to fail.


> pathological arseholes overwhelmed everyone else

How about a system like this.

Something like HN or reddit, but make it read only via online. And the only way to post into it should be by sending a hand written mail, to the admins. These will not be filtered, and will be posted exactly as they are written. People will be able to see the discussions online. The original note can be optionally delivered/forwarded to the recipient (let us snail mail that too)... There will be upvotes and downvotes. But nothing will be sorted or hidden based on that. In other words, take the "instant gratification" out of the discussions, and make them more personal.


4chan's been here for a while for anyone looking for anonymity-first minimal moderation forums. Of course, it isn't the most pleasant site and definitely isn't for everyone.


Surely how pleasant a site is must correlate to how much moderation and anonymity its users experience.


Yeah, because Reddit has turned out great, hasn't it? /s


I'm sure most would agree Reddit is much more pleasant than 4chan.


It really depends on the subreddits and their mods.


A huge split is always created: sites for left wingers (usually very moderated) and sites for right wingers (usually more free).


As much as I would like to see this, censorship-resistant networks don't fare well in today's political climate (because of child porn and copyright). There's always a point of failure; if nothing else, it's the contact between the real world and the virtual world(s).

We can see this today in the case of TOR. The network is censorship-resistant from within, but it's still vulnerable externally - if governments put its users into jail, that's effectively censoring the whole network instead of some specific content.


8chan is quite close to what you described. Although the anonymity-first censorship-resistance thing might give you more than you bargained for once you get there.


I am closely following Project Decorum (http://www.project-decorum.com), which is built using the SAFE Network.

I am also interested by Yours (https://www.yours.network), which is built using Bitcoin.

And you can see a list of other related projects here: https://github.com/yoursnetwork/yours-core/blob/master/docs/...


Moderation is hard especially against bots and spammers. Moderation on a p2p environment would be harder.

Reddit had the advantage that the subreddit is a natural partition point so it's not quite as hard a problem as something more granular, but still: p2p social network is hard.


Moderation of discussion is unethical, imo.


So are violent threats, doxxing, conspiring to commit horrible crimes, and racism. Which do you want on your site?


Coercion is criminal. Should I stoop to the level of a common racist by FORCING him/her to speak a certain way? I've no right to tell people what they can and can not say, nor will I hold myself responsible for their thoughts and actions. It's their burden to bear.


> Coercion is criminal.

I'm not sure what you're saying here. Are you suggesting moderation of online discussion is coercion, and therefor criminal? I think the entire legal system (US specifically) would disagree. Or are you suggestion that a user that is using coercion is criminal, and something you would put a stop to?

> Should I stoop to the level of a common racist by FORCING him/her to speak a certain way?

That's a judgement call to make, depending the context of the site. Yes, you can make the argument that censorship of hate speech is as unethical as the speech itself. I'm not sure if I agree or disagree, and it's a bit of a rabbit hole. Or you could make the argument that your site is for particular discussion of certain topics, and if it's well known what the rules are, there's great benefit to the community by enforcing them: eg /b/ vs Hacker News.

> I've no right to tell people what they can and can not say

You absolutely do, if they are using a site which you own or are in some way in charge of. The same way you have the right to tell someone to get off your lawn.

> nor will I hold myself responsible for their thoughts and actions. It's their burden to bear.

You don't have to hold yourself responsible, but your users might. And shrugging that responsibility might result in a bad experience for many users, depending on how the culture and discussion of a site develops.


But fora are really a website posting your comment on your behalf. A website shouldn't silence you, but is also under no obligation to give you their megaphone.


Coercion is not necessarily criminal. Where does it say otherwise?

> Should I stoop to the level of a common racist by FORCING him/her to speak a certain way?

You are not a Forum. On the other hand, your comment implies you try to convince someone to act (not) a certain way. The difference between the force and conviction might make all the difference, but conviction is one kind of force, isn't it?


You might want to host it yourself, rather than expose other people to the legal threat that comes with what you ask for.

This is possible with INN. Everything you ask for, I think, is possible with INN.

https://www.eyrie.org/~eagle/software/inn//


Hey, I'm working on something similar to what you're describing (focused on mobile right now) and would love to get your thoughts. My email is in my profile, please reach out and I'll show you what we've got so far.


MetaFilter.


How do you build a P2P site/app? Isn't that by nature hosted somewhere?

As for alternatives, what about The Pirate Bay? Links, comments, anonymity.


It's hosted by the computers of the users running the app. For web apps, see TiddlyWiki, which runs off a single HTML file.

An existing example is Freenet, which has a decentralized messaging system.


Old (some would say current) usenet was decentralized.



A p2p discussion site would even be slower than reddit itself, and that's a lot to say.


I've never been hindered by Reddit's speed myself. Is this a real issue in other places?


If you are logged in (i.e. pages are not cached) and you load a page with lots of comments (or any page, at a peak hour), generation times of over three seconds are not unheard of.


Working on it.


Why was the title changed in this way? The new title is so generic, it has nothing to do with the actual problem.


Rip internet


Now why do you say that? What is an alternative means to earning dollars that you do support? I am an online entrepreneur so I am truly interested in knowing. .. ty!




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