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Reddit Traffic has Exploded in 12 Months (soshable.com)
132 points by vaf on Aug 26, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

Speaking as a former reddit admin who had direct access to the server logs (and "wc -l"): Quantcast (and Alexa, and Comscore, and all the others) are terrible at estimating traffic. They make wildly inaccurate guesses using low-quality source data and all the ad execs just gobble up their results as if they're fresh off God's own LaserJet. It's very frustrating to watch.

The most accurate results are visible at Google AdPlanner, because it's reporting actual Google Analytics data from a bug embedded on every reddit page:


Google Trends is also pretty good -- again, because they have access to actual, real search data which they're presenting raw and unvarnished:


To my eye, the hockey stick begins in Q1 2010, well before the mid-Q3 spike when Digg v4 was launched.

TLDR: Digg's implosion may have accelerated Reddit's traffic growth, but it was already doubling yearly, a trend which goes back to the site's launch in 2005.

Thanks for this site, I never knew Google publish analytic traffic and their estimated traffic.

Something interesting I have noticed, if you are looking at Hacker News' traffic data, there seems to be a steep decline somewhere around April [1]. I wonder what whether it is correct, and whether there was a fundamental change in this site / ycombinator around that time.

[1] https://www.google.com/adplanner/planning/site_profile?hl=en...

HN either doesn't use Google Analytics or didn't check the box to make their traffic numbers public. That's why the graph you link to has a dotted line, rather than a solid one. The accuracy is much less certain in their case.

(Sarcasm noted :-) For the uninitiated, this was around the time comment scores were hidden. Only PG knows whether this had any real effect on traffic; and even if so, whether that's a good or bad thing is subjective (less poor quality traffic / comments is good, and since HN is not directly commercial, lower traffic is not necessarily a bad thing).

Loss of value to everyone else from lack of comment scores is another question entirely...

If we have that much evidence that having no visible comment scores reduces poor quality traffic, I think I may have just switched sides in that particular debate.

I'm not saying that is the case, but it could be a very interesting revelation.

And in case it helps, I was about to write the exact same comment. They are using Alexa numbers which are, basically, unsubstantiated guesses.

Heck, they didn't even bother to read the numbers reddit actually publishes.

Any thoughts on why such a difference in the search volume graph which you posted, and Google's estimate of actual traffic? http://trends.google.com/websites?q=reddit.com%2C+digg.com&#...

One's based on raw, direct data, the other is an estimate based on imperfect, partially-related data.

The day I realized reddit wasn't the same anymore, was when I made a jest about Youtube commenters only posting unintelligible comments in the main /r/reddit.com subreddit.

I got tons downvotes and a confused reply saying "is there something wrong with youtube that I dont get?"

Then I realized the people commenting on Reddit were the same ones posting the comments on Youtube.

They weren't even aware of the stigma of Youtubes comments, which shows the cultural shift on Reddit from tech-savvy to mainstream.

I stopped reading Reddit at the beginning of last year: there was a clear shift in demographic that wasn't something I found to be positive. The preference had seemed to become for short, trite, flippant comments that would illicit a slew of puns. Increasingly the richness of content of submissions had dried up. Of course I was told by my friends that I should just read subreddits and ignore the garbage. But even then, the culture had changed. So ultimately it wasn't for me. Needless to say, I'm hardly a loss to Reddit's bottom-line in the scheme of things and they're probably better off in the mainstream in that regard.

I stopped reading reddit long before you stopped. Quite a bit later, I slowly came back by being very selective about my subreddits. I think others might have done the same, because I've definitely been able to create a reddit very much like I remember it long before it got so popular. (Good god, does this post make me sound like an uber-hipster, or what!)

But you're right about the subreddits, and this is one of the more important features which manages to keep acquainted users from leaving the site, even if they are tired of the now 4chan-esque frontpage.

I remember first starting to read reddit probably about a year or so before digg v4. Originally I thought the site style was boring, but I kept coming back because there was always fresh content.

I noticed that after digg v4 things started to downhill. in the last few months it has gotten dramatically worse.

unfunny memes get beaten to death. Rage comics, etc. Two years ago there wasn't that crap. I feel like memes are taking over, and regular comments and submissions are forced into banality when they would be better without the old, beaten-to-death meme.

there's still a lot of good stuff but there's now a sea of horrible content to sift through.

And just to add to that, I feel like the subreddit mechanism is a horribly fragmented and inefficient way of maintaining quality; even as an experienced user I had trouble finding the richness of quality I was looking for.

Back in the day reddit's frontpage was filled with day-to-day reports from the Ron Paul campaign, middlebrow atheist ranting and breathless reports of "police brutality". And it only went down hill since then.

I'd like to think it went mainstream. You can still find those same discussions, but they've gone to the subreddits (which was a fantastic idea, by the way).

Maybe HN should do something similar.

Possible opportunity: a YouTube with smarter comments. Perhaps just embed the YouTube videos, but have a longer, better-threaded, better-ranked comment area. And some gate on registrations, like the Quora test. Hmm, maybe:


I'd be very interested to see this comment thread. I've never, ever seen anyone defend YouTube, let alone YouTube style comments. Further, if you're in an at-all-trafficked subreddit, poor spelling, poor grammar and outright rudeness is fairly well discouraged.

Indeed, this comment in particular was the top reply that had 12+ upvoted before later being downvoted.

"Are you trying to be clever, are you a dumb ass or something else? Is this some funny youtube shit that is above my understanding?"

The exaggerated lack of intelligence in my original comment was really obvious. The fact that people didn't get the joke was what was concerning.

I might be missing something, but it looks like you missed the parent commenter's joke.

I'm having a hard time seeing anything of interest in the whole thread, funny or otherwise. Who are these people who see a comment with 600 upmods or 80 downmods and think, "Yeah, I better add my vote to that gross consensus."

Jokes don't have to be funny to be recognized as jokes.

Wow. I wonder if HN will follow this trend too. Reddit was nothing like this just 2 years ago.

Unfortunately, reddit has started to hit new and new lows. See this recent highly-voted post for example (http://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/jvhot/i_found_a_girl_...), where they're making fun of a poor girl's badly photoshopped photos that she dared to publish on Flickr.

I've been on reddit since its very beginnings, back when its being rewritten in Python was causing huge discussions or when programming.reddit was still a sub-domain. I've lived through the 2008 elections stealing the front page from geeky-related articles, or when making fun at digg was actually considered cool (back in 2009 or so). Anyway, I never thought that making fun and hurting actual innocent people would really hit the front-page, I'm ashamed of having supported this website for so long. There are still some pockets of common-sense left, starting with TrueReddit which I think is more like an animal preserve for those who can still remember how cool and exciting reddit used to be. I'll also want to add /r/history to the list of sub-reddits worth following.

Yeah, that is bad, but it is in r/funny. Other more niche subreddits are much better, like r/netsec


Wow, thanks for that! It's like Reddit, but without all the memes, manipulators, and obvious spammers trying to pump up their karma with reposts. That's the first time in years that I've felt that I gained something in exchange for my time.

I'd also highly recommend r/depthhub


Other more niche ones are good as well.

Unsubscribe from all the default frontpage reddits:

reddit.com politics pics gaming videos f7u12 askreddit etc.

and suddenly reddit looks much more civilized. The remaining reddits are mostly free of overt spamming and manipulation.

checkout /r/depthhub for real good stuff.

Too bad. The voting system isn't as robust as it needs to be for me to use the site on a regular basis anymore. Too many of the top rated threads are jokes, puns, or stupid questions.

Moderating by category made slashdot comments useful. In the user profile, setting all "Funny" moderated comments to -5 eliminated all the "In Soviet Russia" jokes. Repeated comments were marked redundant etc.

Reddit has become quite popular and as a result the comments have become less interesting and more populist. While it's great for the staff to run a successful site, the newfound popularity has pushed me away, and just as they released the Gold accounts as well.

I'd pay for a gold account if it gave access to an advanced moderation system. News.yc is still small enough and the community homogeneous enough that the really stupid shit gets moderated out. People are strict enough around here that the idiots leave quickly. Not having sub-sites helps as well to push away the people primarily looking for lolcats.

Reddit still has a fantastic set of communities on it. Think of it more as a service, not one singular website.

Like usenet.

(These are some of the subs that I like, they might not be your thing, but they're examples of solid communities)










And if you're looking for pictures, there are the "SFW \"Porn\"" subs:


Reddit certainly isn't dead. It's just maturing.

Comparing Reddit to USENET is probably one of the most insightful descriptions of Reddit I've seen anyone make.

It is indeed a big loosely-related collection of communities, from which users choose a la carte their areas of participation.

The Reddit my wife sees when she logs in is very different from the one I see, which is very different from the one fans of meme participation (rage comics, etc) see.

People have been calling reddit "Usenet 2.0" for a long time. In fact, usenet was something that often came up in discussions of how certain features should work and what features we should work on.

I don't disagree that some people have been comparing Reddit to usenet, but I've been an active redditor for 4 years and this is the first time I can recall someone comparing Reddit to usenet.

Oh, I wasn't challenging you, I was just adding some additional context. :)

I understand that I can work to find subcommunities that havne't been destroyed yet, but check out The top rated comment in the top rated post in /r/Programming:


Extremely disappointmented this wasn't a picture of a dump truck full of bees.

1. Sort comments by best, not top. Always.

2. Because programming is still a pretty big subreddit, I believe it's part of the default set: unlogged users and users creating an account will get prog as part of their default subreddit subscriptions. This brings "unwarranted attention" to the subreddit until the uninterested user realizes he can unsubscribe from prog. Things are getting better there as other subreddits have taken over as the juggernauts and are being ruined instead (gaming has 660k members, pics, funny and reddit.com have 850k)

/r/programming is the oldest subreddit and, IMO, has fallen the farthest in terms of quality of posts and comments. I have also become fed up with the banality of the main site at this point, but it's still pretty cool for niche interests like, e.g., /r/Minecraft.

It's no secret that the Programming subreddit has gone downhill in the past couple years. Plus, when a post gets popular, it gains the attention of the general audience, who often view /r/all.

Another good subreddit is /r/todayilearned

> it gains the attention of the general audience, who often view /r/all.

It's not that they view /r/all, it's that they have not customized their front page, so they get the default set of subreddits, which I believe is simply the subreddits with the most members.

I think it's the subreddits with the most members, except that mods can set their subreddits to not be on the default front page.

Try sorting comments by "best" instead of "top". It's not a complete fix, but it's an improvement.

/r/askscience is full of narrow-minded hardliners.

/r/movies is full of spoilers.

/r/philosophy is shallow.

If by "maturing" you mean "attracting the fat middle and the tail end of the IQ bell curve" then yea, you're right.

I'm finding fewer and fewer reasons to stay on Reddit. If I had exactly zero time to waste, I'd spend exactly zero time on Reddit.

> /r/philosophy

Which is why there is /r/academicphilosophy.

Also, there are quite a few city subreddits where people get together and meet. Eg. /r/seattle, /r/portland, /r/austin. I never go to the front page.

Why don't you just create your own front page with just the subreddits you're interested in?


TIL you can use + to combine subreddits

Sort them alphabetically as when one reddit dies, the URL won't work and you need to debug which reddit is at fault. If you sort them alphabetically you can easily do binary sorting.

I think they actually fixed that bug last week. It'll ignore broken subreddits now.

I wasn't happy with the hiding of comment scores on hacker news but I think that reddit should go in that direction. Keep the existence of karma but no longer show it to any users -- there are far too many posts that exist solely to collect meaningless points. I think that would drastically improve the content of a number of subreddits.

I deleted my account yesterday. As a community it has given me nothing back, except pictures of funny cats (ok slight exaggeration)

It seems as if every single comment that hints to insight fulness, knowledge or that comes accompanied with a (scientific) source is ridiculed or downvoted into oblivion. And top comments increasingly are inside jokes. That is all ok, but I am not putting energy in it anymore.

Compare that to HN, where I comment very little, yet nearly every interaction sparked an email or two with people who do cool stuff.

Reddit commenters seems to take some pride that they are not as worse as their cousins at 4chan or youtube. To me they seem to be the internet white noise, and if they don't deviate into the tail, they will be fine. The usenet comparison by blhack is spot on I feel, so new communities will spring to live where others slip.


If you got no value out of the place, I think you were doing it wrong. My city (DC) has a thriving subreddit that meets up probably 2-3 times a week officially to do things - zombie invasion simulations, drinking, board games, go karting, etc. It's been a fantastic way to just get out and do stuff with people. There is a whole subreddit dedicated to 'Barcraft' which brings watching pro starcraft live to bars (like you would watch any other sport). People are spending their time to put on these live events with help from companies like Justin.tv/Twitch. Those are two examples that hit home close to me, but I am sure you can find stuff for you as well, you just have to look and engage with the proper communities.

You gave me a new idea. I have two hobbies, one is a niche, and its subredit is dead in the water. The other is so broad its subredit suffers a bit from the fun&games comments.

Which brings me to this. HN is a pretty nice community. What would happen if we make it a subredit, /r/hn? Its a pretty cool place with a group of growing, devoted followers. All is good. So one day, it gets promoted to the default frontpage. How long before the lol cats outnumber the hackers?

I suspect there is a large overlap as it is. What would be the point of /r/hn when HN is functionally similar? As far as dead subreddits, they can be revived, but it takes effort on someone's part - if you're serious contact the current mod and ask.

Apparently the subreddit mod can disable a subreddit from appearing on the default frontpage.

So many of the comments I see here follow a pattern of "I didn't give much to the community, but expected a lot more in return".

Reddit is what you make of it. Granted, it's not for everybody, but I get value out of it (and give back when I can).

> Reddit commenters seems to take some pride that they are not as worse as their cousins at 4chan or youtube.

As a redditor for >5 years, I'm not sure they can claim even that anymore.

>It’s not guaranteed that something of high quality will make it on Reddit, but it’s absolutely guaranteed that something of low quality will be destroyed there.

That's not true at all. There are tons of low quality posts. There's just such a high turnover that you tend to forget some of the stuff that you automatically skip or filter.

Most of the submissions on the default front page are atrocious.

Anyone feel lost in the high amount of traffic? I have been a redditor for 5 years and I feel not only has the traffic grown considerably but the content submitted has changed so much. The tone of the site has changed enough that I only subscribe to usually low user count subreddits.

I've been subscribed to only non-default subreddits for so long I didn't even notice the traffic growth, except for the occasional fail-whale. The niche parts of the site are still good.

So which subreddits do you find interesting? I tend to browse the fringe parts, too, but even there there's an increase in noise, low-brow comments, and narrow-minded fundamentalism.

For me, the valuable subreddits are the Touhou, Vocaloid, Haskell, and philosophy of science subreddits.

I'm not giving a value judgement I'm saying the site has changed so much in candor.

I wonder why no one talks about the huge growth for imgur, which has more traffic than reddit...



The guy who made the site is a Redditor. People where complaining about not having a good image host so he made one. I think that site generates a lot of income for him.

To me this sums up what Reddit really got right: "The community is the most passionate out there."

Towards the end of his time with Digg Kevin Rose seemed to have little empathy for his audience, and the audience knew it when he checked out of the building and handed things over to Jay. The redesign was more about having a solid code base than rolling out new features for the users. And one got the sense that while they had Twitter envy that Reddit was doubling down on making their community (with all of their quirks) feel at home.

Actually, I think you've stumbled onto a more important point here.

Digg was primarily oriented around Kevin Rose and his 'posse'. Digg started bombing when Kevin bailed.

Reddit was never about Steve or Alexis, it always seemed to be about the community itself. So, when Steve, Alexis, Jeremy, Mike, and everybody else who'd been there forever 'left', there was nothing to implode - the community was still there and still thriving.

Does Kevin Rose even USE digg anymore? I know most of the original crew still uses Reddit, but just as users, like the rest of us poor slobs.

You're dead on -- Reddit was always about the users, never the founders. Not only did Rose stop using the site when he went away, but he seemed pleased to distance himself when he left. Sadly the new CEO seems to care, but many does he have his work cut out for him.

For me the standout feature of reddit is the ease of commenting and browsing comments. Being able to reply, edit and even delete your comment inline without leaving the thread probably raised my level of contribution more than an order of magnitude. I don't understand why more sites (HN, hint hint?) don't make commenting this easy.

If I ever wrote a list of top 10 times an internet "product" handed a competitor most of it's "customers", two that would be on there include MovableType v3 (went free to paid and caused WordPress 2.0 to actually gain attention) and Digg v4.

The crazy thing is how Reddit dominated Digg at the v4 launch. What the hell happened there? Did the Reddit community mobilize 4chan-style? The article teases us this sentence:

Please forgive the long screenshot below, but it’s important to understand exactly how Reddit blasted the Digg front page at this time

This suggests that they have something deeper to reveal, but instead it's just a screenshot showing the actual posts on the front page—how much rather than how.

reddit was actually already bigger than Digg before they launched V4. There was a lot of overlap of users and people were pissed off, so they thought it would be funny.

It wasn't the reddit community but rather the Digg community protesting the changes to the site and using reddit links to make the point.

Many of the users on Digg considered V4 to be about monetizing the site at the expense of a lot of features they really liked.

Though it was apparent in v3, v4 made it impossible to notice that 90+% of digg's content was 12-24 hour lagged reddit content. As this became more obvious and v4 became more mockable, this point was emphasized and mocked by reddit and digg users alike. There was cross promotion, but I don't think many redditors were "seeking out" or trying to "recruit" digg users.

Mandatory: http://blog.reddit.com/2010/07/experts-misunderestimate-our-...

Also, same title could have been posted in 2010 and 2009, which also saw explosion in growth year-over-year.

I have just ONE thing to say: Do not change anything Reddit.

Seriously, it's working, it's great to have, and I would be completely bummed if they pulled their own "Digg v4" at broke a perfectly working system.

Sure, infrastructure can get better, or maybe small improvements as you see happen on HN like with voting, points, etc, but otherwise, just let it ride.

> or maybe small improvements as you see happen on HN like with voting, points, etc,

Hey, that reminds me. I use HN every day, but I still don't have an handle on when the arrows appear and don't and when I can edit and can't.

Is there some page somewhere that actually outlines the rules, or do I have to read the code?

I keep waiting to get the ability to downvote. Every 50 karma I get I think, "maybe I can downvote now", but it never happens.

>= 251, last time I checked.

500 actually. I got it a little while ago. That's comments only.

Other fun comes at >1000.

Like what? I am at 2k++ and haven't noticed anything.

That's because you can't remember the lack of features for noobs :) Downvoting, flagging, changing colors, etc.

Huh. Yeah, it's been awhile.

Way to make me feel old. :)

You have to read the code. What do you think this is, Reddit? ;-)

(with tongue firmly in cheek, etc. etc.)

I searched this thread to see if monetization has been mentioned. I see that it has been. Monetization was mentioned as a reason that Digg failed. What way does Reddit have to make money? Does it make any difference to Reddit, if Reddit has no way to make money, how much traffic Reddit has?

Reddit has many revenue streams. In no particular order: sidebar ads, sponsored links, reddit gold (a for-pay set of premium features), sponsorships, merchandise...

I think Reddit could do much better with selling their merchandise, maybe by selling things directly. I don't think I was really aware of the reddit store, it's not very prominent and I don't remember many blog posts about it.


Do you use AdBlock?

In the snapshot he put, the stories has lots of diggs, but surprisingly few views. The first story has for example 5733 dig and only 1015 views. This is not normal, and suggests that something is going on.

slashdot, digg, reddit, hackernews; i am curious where will I be next year;

with the consistency of users i might get working!!! ha

That floating share button really obscured the main article text on my android. How about a close button for that annoying little thing?

Only posted an hour and already the same, predictable comments. People, please take the time to explore other subreddits. If you stay subscribed to reddit.com, pics, politics and other various default subreddits, you're not going to enjoy yourself (unless you liked digg v4).

Also, I have no idea why reddit defaults to "top" for comment sorting. The experience is much less gimmicky when you sort comments by "best". They're usually more relevant and less meta/jokey. (edit, I appear to have been mistaken on this, I was just sure when I created a new account a while back it had defaulted to 'top'. Oh well, something to keep in mind anyhow.)

The default is best, but if you've ever sorted by "top", it will remain "top" until you change it back. It's a long standing bug. :)

Actually, one of the new guys fixed that. Hooray for progress!

Oh yeah! It was in the changelog. I forgot, since I'm no longer responsible for memorizing the changelog. ;)

Sounds like a long standing feature to me; sticky settings. Anyone who prefers setting X over the default shouldn't be forced to change it every time they view a page.

The bug was that a GET request was causing an update, which shouldn't happen because then you end up updating your settings just by clicking on a link, usually inadvertently.

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